Entry barriers: Modi govt mulls tough data storage norms to deter Chinese apps

By: |
July 28, 2020 8:00 AM

By putting such a clause in the proposed intermediary guidelines, the government can always effectively investigate into charges of they indulging in anti-national activities or activities which endanger law and order situation.

The government can always effectively investigate into charges of they indulging in anti-national activities or activities which endanger law and order situation.

The ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) plans to shortly formulate a set of intermediary guidelines to regulate Internet apps and social media platforms based on the country of origin. The issue has gained prominence in the light of the recent banning of around 59 Chinese apps by the government on national security concerns. Official sources said that though the current provisions in the Information Technology Act empowers the government to ban apps and block content which threaten national security, sovereignty, etc, a framework needs to be put in place regarding other operational details as well.

Meanwhile, the government on Monday is understood to have banned 47 more Chinese apps, taking the total number of mobile applications banned to 106. The 47 additional Chinese apps that have been banned are clones and variants of the apps which were blocked earlier.

One of the provisions in the new set of guidelines would be that companies which are based in countries that share land border with India, can only operate if they store consumer data within the country, officials said. Such a provision would make functioning of Chinese apps difficult in the country and if they want to be present in the Indian market, they would have to meet stringent government guidelines right from the beginning.

The other provision, which could be applied to apps from firms which are based in countries sharing land border with India, is that they would have to compulsorily store data for around three months. This provision currently applies to licensed telecom operators but not to any over the top (OTT) players.

By putting such a clause in the proposed intermediary guidelines, the government can always effectively investigate into charges of they indulging in anti-national activities or activities which endanger law and order situation.

With the guidelines distinguishing between firms based in countries sharing land border with the country and those beyond it, a clear distinction can be made between apps and social media platforms of US-based firms like Facebook and Google, officials said.

As is known, the government is in the process of formulating an overall data protection law which would lay down specifically what kind of data is to be stored within the country. The intermediary guidelines would be different from it.

Intermediary guidelines are basically for social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, etc. They are distinguished from other Internet media platforms in the sense that since they do not own or publish original content they have the immunity under IT laws for any alleged malafide items on their platforms. If anything malafide is found or reported on their platform, they are informed and given time to remove such content.

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