Data Protection Bill: Select committee holds talks amid privacy concerns

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Published: February 13, 2020 5:15:56 AM

The Bill, based on the recommendations of the Justice Srikrishna committee, was finalised after holding multiple rounds of meetings between various stakeholders.

The Bill empowers the Centre to exempt any government agency from application of the proposed legislation and also gives it power to decide from time to time on the exemption list.The Bill empowers the Centre to exempt any government agency from application of the proposed legislation and also gives it power to decide from time to time on the exemption list.

The joint select committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill is holding public consultations amid concerns regarding privacy and exemptions granted to government for processing data in case of national security. The stakeholders are required to send their comments in three weeks, after which more meetings may happen to evolve a consensus around the Bill.

The Bill, which was cleared by the Cabinet in December 2019 and later tabled in Parliament, was sent to the select committee as many activists expressed apprehensions regarding a clause in the Bill, which allows processing of personal data without explicit consent of the owner in cases of national security and also seeks to empower the government to exempt any government agency from the provisions of the proposed legislation. The Bill, based on the recommendations of the Justice Srikrishna committee, was finalised after holding multiple rounds of meetings between various stakeholders.

The Bill bars storing and processing of personal data by entities without the explicit consent of an individual but it provides for exemptions for reasonable purposes such as “prevention and detection of any unlawful activity including fraud, whistle blowing, merger and acquisitions, network and information security, credit scoring, recovery of debt, processing of publicly available personal data, and the operation of search engines”.

The Bill empowers the Centre to exempt any government agency from application of the proposed legislation and also gives it power to decide from time to time on the exemption list.

One of the provisions of the Bill states that the Centre can — in the interest of the sovereignty, the security of the state and public order — “direct that all or any of the provisions of this Act shall not apply to any agency of the government in respect of processing of such personal data…”

Some of the activists are also demanding to set absolute standards for defining privacy like not using biometrics, etc in any form. However, the government feels that in the age of digital, it won’t be possible. The Bill has granted a major concession to overseas players, as a clause has been dropped that required storing a mirror copy of all personal data within the country. This is a departure from the recommendations of the Justice Srikrishna committee which had said that while personal data can be processed and stored abroad, a mirror copy needs to be stored in India.

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