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ET Special Podcast (ET Online)

India on the fast track to becoming an Orwellian State?

02:50 Min | December 12, 2019, 5:51 PM IST
The 2019 Data Protection Bill, first drafted in 2018 and approves by the Cabinet is posing a major problem, there might be no oversight on government agencies, we break down how.
Script: Rahul Aripaka
Hosts: Deepshikha Rahi, Poorabi Gaekwad
Producer: Deepshikha Rahi

Hello, and welcome to ET’s Special Podcast

Today, we’re talking about the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019.

Last week, the Union Cabinet cleared the Data Protection Bill

It adds intense scrutiny on private firms using data

And penalises them for misuse

While also mandating localisation of data

Which means?

That all foreign firms will have to either set up or rent servers in the country.

That does make it easier for the government to regulate data

But, there has been opposition to the final version

Justice BN Srikrishna, the man who headed the committee that drafted the Bill also has voiced concerns

What did he say?

He said the Bill in its current version could turn India into an Orwellian State

That’s a loaded statement

He’s not without reason, though. The Bill has stifled oversight.

How so?

Well, the Bill - while it does protect personal data from private companies - there’s little protection from the government itself

Speaking of, the Bill gives people the right to obtain confirmation that data provided has been processed

Seek corrections in existing data

And get data transferred to another data fiduciary, if necessary

But, but, the Bill also says personal data can be processed without consent

Sorry, come again?

Yeah, the Bill says the State can use personal data if required to provide benefits; for legal proceedings and in response to a medical emergency

That doesn’t sound half-bad
But, it’s a matter of consent - there is no definition of ‘benefits’, or a medical emergency

So you’re saying they could define them as they wish

Yes. And then there’s no way to prevent that

But there is a Data Protection Authority?


And it is mandated to prevent misuse of personal data and ensure compliance with the Bill

But, these apply to entities defined as data fiduciaries, not to government entities

So, no oversight, basically?


That’s definitely Orwellian.

Okay, what are the restrictions on fiduciaries?

Well, there’s a fine


5 crores or 2 percent of annual turnover

So, if Netflix or Google decide to mis use my data

And then the Data Authority flags them

They’ll pay 5 crores, that’s it?

Well, that’s in the case of non sensitive data


In the case of sensitive data they pay 15 crores of 4 percent

Of course, all of this will go into effect in 2020

Only if the joint committee from both Houses approves it

And their report is due just before the Union budget in February

Guess we’ll just have to wait for their report.
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