After mobile number portability, data portability maybe in the offing. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is likely to recommend as part of its consultative process on data ownership and privacy that consumers should be allowed to port their data, which would end data monopoly by a few big players as is the case today. Speaking at the Idea Exchange programme of the Express Group, Trai chairman RS Sharma said data portability means that a subscriber who’s the owner of the data that is shared on any social media site can authorise another such site to take the data for purposes assigned. “This way any major social media site would not have a monopoly on data and start-ups can benefit hugely,” Sharma said. However, there’s a catch. Trai regulates only telecom players and as such does not have powers to regulate data, which is not in the domain of telecom operators. However, it can certainly make a recommendation to the government, which may frame laws to this effect.
Currently, there are tools like Google Takeout that enable subscribers to carry their personal data, etc, to a different browser, which can be termed as some sort of data portability, but what Trai is trying to do is will be on a much larger scale. As is known, Trai is working on a paper on data ownership and privacy and will shortly submit its recommendations to the government. The government has set up a committee under justice BN Srikrishna for suggesting measures for data protection based on which a law would be framed. Trai’s recommendations may be suitably used by the committee.
Sharma said that in its recommendations on data privacy and ownership, Trai would focus on data that is with the telecom operators. “Data privacy essentially means that a person has control over his or her own data. If I want to voluntarily disclose some data pertaining to myself, whether I have checked into an airport or some place or if I am publishing my data, it is out of my own volition. But if somebody is using that data without my permission then I have lost control on that. Therefore, the first issue in data protection is clarifying who owns the data. So ownership of data is an extremely relevant concept in this (consultation on data ownership),” Sharma said. He said Trai’s main focus would be on regulating data with the mobile operators and which can/or flows to either apps or external parties. “Such data belongs to subscribers and its movement should be with their consent. This needs to be clearly laid down by regulation,” Sharma said.