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Wednesday 22 January 2020

Bill to store Indians’ data in India may turn business prohibitive

The bill also seeks to safeguard 'national interest', proposes a steep fine for breach and imposes some prohibitive costs for businesses

Amidst many questions and apprehensions, the government is now ready to bring a new law on the much-awaited data protection bill in Parliament. The draft bill may be approved in the next Cabinet meeting, incorporating some suggestions from all the parties, after which it will be presented immediately in Parliament.

The winter session of Parliament begins on 18 November. After the bill is approved by the Parliament, all social mediums will have to keep the data of users associated with India in India. The government argues that these companies avoid legal process inside the country because their license is not taken from inside the country.

Bill inspired by European data protection law

According to a source in the government, the proposed law has been drafted along the lines of data protection laws across the world with maximum inputs from European laws.

The focus of the bill is on taking people’s consent while sharing data. Many provisions have been made for this and it has been strictly stated that taking or sharing any kind of data without permission will be legally illegal.

Possible flaws in the proposed law

In the draft bill, clear guidelines have been given about the information related to common people and the extent to which they can be shared. But critics of the bill are of the view that it still has many flaws and if it is passed in the current form, it will be widely opposed. The main bone of contention is the clause of “national interest”, which is prone to misuse.

While the above may not concern people who are not perpetually displeased with the establishment, which the social media posts of a section of the population reflect, the bill asks businesses to seek explicit consent for consumers’ data they collect, use the information sparingly and only for purposes that are stated in their privacy policy. The business can store “sensitive” consumer data only within Indian borders.

The bill proposes a fine of up to Rs 15 crore or 4% of the firm’s turnover in the case of a breach.

To ensure the above, a data protection authority (DPA), an appellate authority that will decide on such matters, will be set up.

When the bill becomes a law, it will affect Google, Facebook and Twitter among the most popular of search engines and social networking sites. MNCs say the law will shoot up their operating costs. It is feared some internet services will be affected, too, as storing the data in India could prove more expensive.

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