A robust personal data protection law in the offing

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New Delhi: India is poised to witness some developments around a robust personal data protection law soon, Member of Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on Personal Data Protection Bill Dr Amar Patnaik has said.

Dr Patnaik said this while participating in an online panel discussion on Future of Data Governance in India: A Consumer Perspective. The panel discussion was organized by CUTS International. Dr Patnaik said the Personal Data Protection Bill has gone through an extensive process of clause-wise consideration during a round of consultation within the JPC.

He alluded that it would be safe to conclude that we are likely to soon witness some developments around a robust personal data protection law which takes into account diverse perspectives and balances individual privacy, state’s interests, and need to leverage digital economy.

Dr. Patnaik reminded that we should not forget that privacy has been guaranteed as fundamental right within the right to life under the Constitution of India, and will be protected as such. He also cautioned against early regulation of non-personal data market and argued in favour or allowing it to mature.   

Participating in the discussion, Senior Consultant in the Office of Principal Scientific Advisor B.N. Satpathy,  while acknowledging the importance of privacy, suggested that it cannot overrule the central objective of data governance architecture, which is to ensure ease of living for citizens, and serve the need for a common consumer.

To this end, he pointed out that fostering demand and supply of information will be crucial, for which legally recognising the role of non-state actors in collecting and supplying citizen generated data could be envisaged.

Dr. Linnet Taylor, Associate Professor, Tilburg University, and Lead, Global Data Justice Project, cautioned against stretching data protection to do things it is not necessarily designed to do. It is necessary to clearly define data markets to enable application of data protection frameworks. 

She pointed out that groups become more vulnerable to targeting when patterns emerge from analysis of apparently non-personal de-identified data. Data protection frameworks, thus, need to be thought in conjunction with other laws, such as anti-discrimination laws. 

Other speakers during the session were Amlan Mohanty from Google, Nehaa Chaudhari from Ikigai Law, and Srikanth Lakshmanan from Cashless Consumer. A consensus emerged that greater consultations of this nature are essential to design a shared future of optimal data governance in India.

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