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Surveillance architecture in India violating privacy of individuals

  • Published
    26th Nov, 2022
Context

The reworked Digital Personal Data Protection Bill2022 has been released for public comments. Itis focused on personal data, as compared to an earlier unwieldy draft. 

Background
  • The journey towards demands for data protection legislation began in 2011 when the Department ofPersonnel and Training initiated discussions on the Right to Privacy Bill, 2011.

Right to Privacy Bill, 2011:

  • It creates a statutory Right to Privacy by means of a broad definition and then creates specific protections for it.
  • The government interception and telephone tapping mechanism is changed moderately from the existing system.
  • A regulatory mechanism is created through the Data Protection Authority of India.
About

Important provisions of the Bill 2022:

  • The Bill aimsto secure personal data, while also seeking users' consent in what the draft claims is "clear and plain language" describing the exact kinds of information that will be collected and for what purpose.
  • The Bill will establish the comprehensive legal framework governing digital personal data protection in India.
  • Applicability- Limited to the processing of only ‘digital personal data’. 
  • Data Protection Board– Provides for establishment of a data protection board which will act as an independent body and exercise supervisory functions.
  • Cross border flow: It allows for cross border data flow to “countries and territories” notified by the Central government.

Issues with the new Bill:

  • Blanket exemption:Clause 18(2); of the bill allows the Union government to provide blanket exemptions for selected government agencies.
    • However, the Bill also permits exemption to private sector entities that may include individual companies or a class of them, by assessing the volume and nature of personal data under Clause 18(3).
  • Amendment to RTI Act: The DP Bill proposes to amend the Section 8.1(j) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 in a manner that disclosure of personal information may be absolutely denied to a RTI applicant (irrespective of it being in larger public interest). 

Need of the Bill:

  • India has over 760 million active internet users, necessitating that data generated and used by online platforms are subject to privacy rules to prevent abuse and increase accountability and trust.

Laws in other geographies:

  • An estimated 137 out of 194 countries have put in place legislation to secure the protection of data and privacy, with Africa and Asia showing 61% (33 countries out of 54) and 57% adoption respectively.
  • Only 48% of Least Developed Countries (22 out of 46) have data protection and privacy laws

Important technological breakthrough in India’s digital journey

  • In 2009, the National Payments Corporation of India took over the ATM network to modernise retail payments and settlements.
  • Establishment of the Unique Identification Authority of India or UIDAI.
  • With the Aadhaar program in place, India implementedPradhan Mantri Jan DhanYojanato provide all households in India with a bank account.
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