At a time when various Indian policies that are being framed are in favour of local storage of sensitive data, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has called for free cross-border flow of data, in a letter written to Minister of Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad. “Free flow of data across borders – with a focus on user privacy and security – will encourage startups to innovate and expand globally and encourage global companies to contribute to India’s digital economy,” Pichai noted in the letter dated September 5.
Currently, the draft data protection law, recommended by the Justice Srikrishna committee, suggests that every data fiduciary in India shall ensure the storage of at least one serving copy of personal data on a server or data centre located in India. The government can notify certain categories of personal data as critical personal data that would have to be stored in a data centre located within India. Further, the draft e-commerce policy also calls for local storage of personally sensitive data; the Reserve Bank of India has mandated payments firms to store data within India, and the draft guidelines for e-pharmacies also proposes local data storage by such online portals.
Recently, industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) had expressed concern around data localisation and information processing calling it “restrictive” and suggesting it could hurt Indian startups. It had also warned that other countries, where Indian startups are expanding to, may retaliate by demanding reciprocal data localisation. Further IAMAI had pointed out that data localisation also forces Indian startups to look for more expensive and inefficient local solutions.
Pichai’s letter to Prasad comes in backdrop of the latter’s visit to Google’s headquarters last month where he was briefed about Google’s plans in India for enabling access, Indic language computing, artificial intelligence solutions for social good and capacity building of startups and small and midsize business. “The Google team in India will be in touch with your office to follow up on some of the specific topics we discussed during our meeting,” he wrote.
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