Charvak Thatha DP1
The idea of the Personal Data Protection Bill has been put into place by many nations across the world. One of the first nations in Asia to employ something similar was Singapore in 2012, after which many more Asian countries followed suit. Perhaps one of the largest factors that contributed to many countries setting up data protection laws was the Facebook - Cambridge Analytica incident that took place in 2016 where Facebook sold the data of over 87 million individuals people for an exorbitant sum of money.
So what exactly is the Personal Data Protection Bill? In India, it is a law to protect the data of individuals presiding in a nation. In short, it places restrictions on who can access the data and who can use the data. Alongside this, the law makes it illegal to sell data to any party. The government has full access to this data as it is considered a national resource. However, corporations do not have access to this data and must seek approval and appeal to the government if they wish to access and utilize the data. Even then, they will not have full access, only the overall statistical overview of the data they wish to use. The government cannot disclose an individual’s data unless the individual has given explicit consent. The prevalent issue being dealt with in India today is that the majority of data generated in India ,except for financial transactions, is not stored locally, it is stored abroad-primarily in the United States of America. This begs the question of data localisation. Why does the Indian nation want to localize data storage? Why is it so important for India to host its own data?
Firstly, user data is considered as a national resource just like any good or service. Governments always tax the inflow and outflow of goods and believe they should be able to tax the inflow and outflow of user data just as they would with any good. This money can of course be used for further developing the nation itself in terms of infrastructure and whatnot. This is not possible if the default storage location for this national resource, dubbed the “oil of the new age” by many economists, is stored elsewhere in foreign lands.
This brings me to the next issue. The user data of a nation can be used as a powerful political weapon when in times of political turmoil. For example, the intense trade war between the United States of America and China. If China had been relying on the United States of America to store its user data, they would be at a heavy disadvantage as the United States of America essentially has unriddled access to all of the data stored within its own borders. As a result of this realization, India is pushing to house its own data and revoke it from American borders. When it is so clear that storing your country’s data in a foreign land gives them an inside edge and powerful weapon to use against you, why would you keep doing it?
Alongside these two major factors, there is another reason to localize data if you are not already convinced that data localization is essential. Localizing data will allow governments to give its own companies an edge against the private sector multinational corporations. Although the government cannot disclose the data of individual people, they are well within their limits to disclose data as overall statistics like demographics, user preferences etc. This would help government companies thrive and gain an edge against their private sector counterparts.
Now that we have established that localizing Indian data will bring many benefits, what are the challenges in doing so? One of the largest challenges the nation of India is facing is that it is growing much too rapidly. This may not seem like a problem but many companies believe that due to the rate at which India is growing, the nation may not have the infrastructure to support such exorbitant amounts of data. In 2010, India collectively produced 40000 petabytes of data in a single year. Experts predict, in 2022, the nation of India will generate 2.3 million petabytes of data. Just to give you a means of comprehension, a single petabyte is made of 1 million GigaBytes. However, as it stands, this should not really be an issue and is essentially a political lie to prevent developing nations like India from housing their own data. For the developed world, free access to the data of developing nations is a treasure trove of information. India and similar countries have extremely large markets that are rapidly growing. Having access to this information means the countries will know exactly when to enter the market with a new company, or in other circumstances, they will know exactly when to introduce something new to heavily slow down economic growth. Countries like the United States of America are reluctant to give up their nearly free access to data for this reason.
Data localisation, as we have established, is an essential part of the new age for any country that is looking to hold a place in the global economy as a major player with political influence. It is indubitably required for a successful economy in the digital era that is today. We have cemented the fact that this data must be protected within its respective nation and that the personal data of individuals must be protected at all costs. In India, the situation is getting better but the data generated by India still lies within the clutches of a foreign nation. I would like to pose a question- do you really think India lacks the infrastructure to house its own data, or is it all just an excuse to stop Indian economic growth?
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