Draft e-commerce policy: Survey reveals reservation on govt's data handling prowess, bats for splitting up policy into two

Around 30 percent of the respondents said that they had no confidence at all in the government's capability in protecting their data

The draft e-commerce policy proposed by the government through the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) has sought inputs from the public. The deadline which was initially 9 March was extended to 29 March following industry request.

According to a recent five-point survey, around 74 percent of the businesses are opting for splitting the e-commerce policy into a business data policy and an e-commerce policy. The survey conducted by LocalCircles involved 6,000 startups and SMEs, 6,500 common citizens who gave around 15,000 responses to five questions. Some of the key insights of the survey also include reservations against government's data-sharing requirements.

Draft e-commerce policy: Survey reveals reservation on govts data handling prowess, bats for splitting up policy into two

The logo of India's e-commerce firm Flipkart. Reuters

Considering a large portion of the draft e-commerce policy applied to non-e-commerce businesses as well, around 74 percent respondents were of the opinion that the policy should be split into two: an e-commerce policy and a business data policy, while 14 percent were unsure about it. The respondents said that the business data policy should cover every business that possibly touches citizen data in any way. This means the inclusion of physical retailers, banks, telcos, automobile companies and so on. Industries that interface with consumers directly or indirectly ought to come under the business data policy felt the respondents.

LocalCircle survey findings on draft e-commerce policy. Image: Local Circles

LocalCircle survey findings on draft e-commerce policy regarding splitting e-commerce policy. Image: Local Circles

On being asked about the government's demand for private businesses to share any aggregated data at any time, around 29 percent respondents felt that it wasn't appropriate whereas a large majority of around 53 percent felt that this was fine only in case of law and order or investigative situations. Around 14 percent respondents felt that this shouldn't be allowed at all.

"The draft e-commerce policy mandates that the government reserves the right to seek source code and algorithms from a business at any time. When asked if this was appropriate, 26 percent businesses said yes and 16 percent said no. 51 percent said it was okay only in case of an investigation or a law and order situation," said the report. A lot of the respondents felt that developing source code and algorithms was a resource-intensive task and something that gave companies a competitive advantage. The government asking for it was deemed unfair by many.

LocalCircle survey findings on draft e-commerce policy. Image: Local Circles

LocalCircle survey findings on draft e-commerce policy with regards to govt asking for source code and algorithms from a business. Image: Local Circles

On the aspect of sharing aggregated data with overseas entities, around 53 percent respondents said that it would not be an issue for them whereas around 29 percent felt that it would affect their businesses. "Some startups have also shared a concern about this rule becoming a serious limitation when raising investment or an acquisition/merger by a foreign company," said the report.

Finally, a question was asked on the citizens' confidence levels in the government when it came to handling their data and protecting it from any compromise.

As expected, around 30 percent of the respondents said that they had no confidence at all in the government's capability in protecting their data and around 38 percent felt that they had limited confidence.

LocalCircle survey findings on draft e-commerce policy. Image: Local Circles

LocalCircle survey findings on draft e-commerce policy. Image: Local Circles

LocalCircles has shared these findings with the DPIIT.

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