Magnified privacy concerns: Centre announces data protection law
India

Magnified privacy concerns: Centre announces data protection law

21 Apr 2017 | By Gogona Saikia

WhatsApp, Facebook group admins can face action over fake news

Varanasi District Magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra and SSP Nitin Tiwari have issued an order saying admins of WhatsApp and Facebook groups will be held responsible if members circulate misleading information.

The admin should add only personally known people, remove those who post fake news, and report provocative messages to police, it said.

Cases will be filed under cyber crime laws if rules are violated.

Timeline
20 Apr 2017

Would enact data protection law by Diwali: Centre tells SC

The Centre recently conveyed to the Supreme Court that it would bring in a data protection law, protecting vital personal and financial information in digital transactions and social media.

Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi, noted, the new regime would address apprehensions on right to privacy.

The announcement comes about as the government seeks to face various challenges springing from digitization, including cyber crime.

Fact

What is data protection?

Data protection refers to, "the process of safeguarding important information from corruption or loss". It covers aspects including Data Life cycle Management, a process transferring critical date from online to offline storage and Information Life cycle Management, including cataloguing and protection data from malware.

Background

Why is this important?

Why is this important?

Concerns on misuse of personal information in social media were recently fuelled by change in WhatsApp's privacy policy following takeover by Facebook.

Debates on the efficacy of existing Indian data protection regime with respect to Right to Privacy have gained momentum in the background of government's push for Aadhaar and digital transactions.

The issue was strongly raised by opposition in the Parliament's budget session.

Fact

The WhatsApp-Facebook privacy row

This concerns WhatsApp's renewed terms and conditions following the Facebook acquisition, asking users to agree to handover their personal information for commercial use to Facebook, sparking privacy concerns. The Delhi HC in September 2016 allowed WhatsApp to implement its policy, while safeguarding user's interests.

About

Data protection in India

Unlike the EU or USA, India does not have a specific law for data protection. Instances of data theft are therefore adjudicated within the narrow scope of provisions from the Information Technology Act.

A Study conduced by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy in January 2017 found, Indian data protection laws were inadequate to address evolving data protection concerns addressed by laws in other countries.

Fact

IT Act and data protection

Attempting to make-up for lack of data protection law in India, Section 43A of IT Act was inserted in 2008, making corporations liable for negligent handling of data. The rules introduced in 2011 sought to bring in data protection law, define categories of sensitive information.

Proceedings

What happened in the Court?

What happened in the Court?

Centre's assurance to enact data protection law was conveyed by Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi, during the proceedings on a petition filed over right to privacy concerns in WhatsApp's new privacy policy.

Counsel for petitioners, Harish Salve welcomed the announcement highlighting the link between data protection and privacy.

However, lawyers for WhatsApp and Facebook, stated, information on WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted, addressing privacy concerns.

Conclusion

India needs a data protection law

The need for data protection is increasingly being felt in the backdrop of increasing cyber crimes including financial fraud, data and identity theft. Protection further becomes necessary as India moves toward digitization.

While the IT Act, partially addresses the problem, it fails to clear ambiguity on crucial legal questions creating room for misuse, resulting in companies exploiting user's consent.

21 Apr 2017

WhatsApp, Facebook group admins can face action over fake news