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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Joint Select Committee seeks comparative reviews of Privacy Bill

In December, Parliament approved sending the Bill to a Joint Select Committee chaired by BJPs Meenakshi Lekhi, sidestepping the IT Parliamentary Standing Committee chaired by Congress' Shashi Tharoor.

Written by Karishma Mehrotra | New Delhi | Published: January 17, 2020 10:15:52 am
Privacy bill, Joint select committee on Privacy bill, Personal Data Protection Bill, Data bill deatails, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Indian express In this photo, Justice BN Srikrishna hands over the report to IT Minister RS Prasad. (PTI)

During the first meeting of the Joint Select Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, Parliament members Thursday asked the government to present more details on the fundamental right to privacy in juxtaposition with the Bill.

The Indian Express has learnt that in the two-hour-long meeting, the MPs also asked government officials to present comparisons between the data Bill, Justice B N Srikrishna committee’s draft, and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Secretaries and Additional Secretaries from the Law Ministry, Information Technology Ministry and the Legislative Branch briefed the panel members.

It was also learnt that the MPs decided to publish a public advertisement in a week seeking suggestions on the Bill. The deadline for comments will be in three weeks, and the committee will meet again in a month. Some members called for specific experts to depose in front of the committee, including Justice Srikrishna.

In December, Parliament approved sending the Bill to a Joint Select Committee chaired by BJPs Meenakshi Lekhi, sidestepping the IT Parliamentary Standing Committee chaired by Congress’ Shashi Tharoor.

Commonly referred to as the “Privacy Bill”, the Personal Data Protection Bill intends to protect individual rights by regulating the collection, movement and processing of data that is personal, or which can identify the individual. The Bill gives the government discretion to authorise the transfer of certain types of personal data overseas and has given broad exceptions that allow government agencies to collect personal and sensitive data of citizens.

An earlier draft of the Bill, prepared by the Justice Srikrishna committee, had provided exemptions to the government for collecting such data for security, criminal investigations and crime prevention. It had, however, stipulated that these exceptions be authorised by a separate law and data be collected only if it is “necessary for, and proportionate to” the government’s interests.

The IT Ministry’s Bill does not include any of these limitations on exemptions to government agencies. Instead, it states that the Centre can allow any agency to process such personal data so long as it is “satisfied that it is necessary or expedient” for purposes such as “preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence”.

The Bill also makes way for government-led technological solutions. One example is the power given to the central government to direct any entity to provide “non-personal” or anonymised data “to enable better targeting of delivery of services or formulation of evidence-based policies.”

It requires companies and social media intermediaries which are “significant data fiduciaries” — based on factors such as volume and sensitivity of data handled as well as their turnover — to enable users in India to “voluntarily verify their accounts” resulting in a “demonstrable and visible mark of verification, which shall be visible to all users of the service.”

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