Narendra Modi government will not tolerate unauthorised use of data, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

Bengaluru: Amidst controversies surrounding Cambridge Analytica and Facebook on the data breach issue, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Sunday said the government would not tolerate any unauthorised use of data for abuse or to influence elections.

Speaking at an interactive event "Bengaluru IT Global Hub – Road Ahead", organised by BJP's Karnataka unit, Prasad warned that the government would act tough against anybody abusing data for collateral purposes.

"The Narendra Modi government is very clear. Any unauthorised use of data without the consent of the owner for abuse and collateral purposes or influencing the elections will not be tolerated. We are very clear about it," he said.

Ravi Shankar Prasad

File image of Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. PTI

He said five important points are associated with data — (data) availability, utility, innovation, anonymity and privacy. Prasad said data is important if India wished to grow.

"In a particular area if people are getting infected, because of data we can have a good policy for that. But it should be an anonymous data. If innovation is to be done, data availability is important.

"Let there be privacy in terms of your health condition, your official preferences, relationships which are matrimonial in nature and family matters. But the issue of privacy is overblown by those who talk of Right to Information and also talk of privacy," he added.

He said the government had issued show cause notices to Cambridge Analytica and Facebook on the data breach issue.

Prasad on 29 March said the government had given notices to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica on the data breach issue and would decide on the action to be taken after receiving their responses.

The IT Ministry had on 28 March issued a notice to social networking giant Facebook, seeking its response over the user data breach and details of steps it has put in place to ensure safety and prevent misuse of personal data.

It raised five questions for Facebook, including whether personal data of Indian voters and users has been compromised by Cambridge Analytica or any other downstream entity in any manner and gave the networking giant a deadline of 7 April to send a detailed response.

A similar notice was earlier sent to Cambridge Analytica over media reports of questionable practices attributed to the UK-based firm in their efforts to influence elections by harvesting data of Facebook users.

To a question on the misuse of the digital platform, Prasad emphasised that he advocated free media and free speech. "But if anyone abuses social media to encourage extremism, terrorism and communalism, that becomes a matter of concern," he said.

The minister said that a committee, headed by retired judge Sri Krishna, has been asked to submit a report on data protection law which would come out soon.

The IT Minister also rejected the suggestion to link Aadhaar with voter ID, saying though he was personally not in favour of it, those opposing Aadhaar would accuse the Narendra Modi government of snooping on everyone.

The Aadhaar and Voter ID cards operate in different fields, he said, adding a voter ID has much more details, which is lacking in the Aadhaar card.

"Both of them (Aadhaar and voter ID) operate in different fields.You go to cast your vote...if you show your Aadhaar card, you will not be allowed to cast your vote unless you show your voter ID card."

"The larger issue is that if everything is linked to Aadhaar, then the great supporters of anti-Aadhaar will say that the Narendra Modi government is snooping on everything, boarding, what you are eating, which cinema you are going. I don't want that," said the union minister.

Prasad said that Aadhaar during UPA government did not have any legal backing, whereas the NDA government brought a separate law for it.

He also expressed anguish over the 'pathetic infrastructure' in Bengaluru, despite the city being the IT hub of India.

He said the enormous delay in Metro rail project and flooding in Bengaluru had hit the headlines.


Updated Date: Apr 01, 2018 22:41 PM

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