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Sunday, July 03, 2022

US bodies push back on data protection Bill, seek new working group

Tweaks sought on localisation of data storage , cross-border data flow curbs.

Written by Soumyarendra Barik , Aashish Aryan | New Delhi |
Updated: March 3, 2022 7:11:17 am
The main problems, which have been highlighted by these trade and industry bodies, as well as the companies, are regarding certain provisions of the Bill such as insistence on local storage of data and restrictions on cross-border flow of data.

Trade and industry bodies as well as some tech companies from the US have initiated talks with senior government officials in India to form a new working group to discuss issues related to the data protection Bill and other newer developments in India’s technology sector, sources in know of the development said.

The main problems, which have been highlighted by these trade and industry bodies, as well as the companies, are regarding certain provisions of the Bill such as insistence on local storage of data and restrictions on cross-border flow of data.

“With data localisation, one main issue is that India does not yet have large to very large data centres. Small data centres are not very cost effective and do not meet the safety norms of the companies. There needs to be more discussion on the issue,” a senior executive working with a big tech company said.

The new group, sources said, is likely to contain representatives from most of the big tech companies and will function differently from the currently operational India-US working group on information and communication technology (ICT).

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“The ICT was formed in 2005. The technology and Internet then was very different. That group has practically outlived its purpose. We believe that a new group would be able to discuss the nuances of PDP (data protection Bill) better,” a source said.

The India-US working group on ICT was started in 2005 after a summit between then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush. It meets on an annual basis in India or the US to discuss various aspects of co-operation in the space of information and communication.

“ICT mostly has representation from hardware manufacturers and software companies which provide software-as-a-service, which is not best suited for the changes that have since happened in technology,” a government official said.

Earlier this year, a US government delegation, led by Matt Murray, Senior Bureau Official in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs of the Department of State, had raised concerns on certain aspects of cross-border flow of personal and non-personal data as well as storage of data located in servers outside Indian borders in the Bill proposed by India.

The January meeting was the second time that the US had raised concerns about the Bill. In an October 2020 meeting, the US government delegation had suggested that the two nations should discuss critical issues such as how a company could safely move personal as well as non-personal data across borders without it being compromised in any manner.

Last December, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill tabled its final report in Parliament. The Bill, which now includes non-personal data in its ambit, will simply be known as Data Protection Bill.

It was introduced in Lok Sabha on December 11, 2019 by then Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and referred to the standing committee five days later. In Lok Sabha, the committee’s report was presented by its chairperson P P Chaudhary and laid in Rajya Sabha by Congress member Jairam Ramesh.

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