Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 is out; law raises questions on govt provisions which hint at unfettered access to data

The bill is listed for introduction in the Parliament’s Winter Session, which is set to conclude on 13 December.

Last week, the Union Cabinet gave a nod to the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, which aims to bring regulations around usage and storage of personal data.

Today, the bill has been circulated among Members of Parliament, that you can also read here.

The Internet Freedom Foundation, in a tweet, revealed that the bill has been circulated today. The same tweet also carries a link to Google Doc with the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019.

Representational Image.

Representational Image.

The bill is listed for introduction in the Parliament’s Winter Session, which is set to conclude on 13 December.

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had held an undisclosed and selective consultation on the Draft Personal Data Protection Bill on 25 August 2019.

You can read the bill in full detail below.

Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 by Tech2 on Scribd

The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 lays out a framework, which includes limits of usage, collection, and processing of personal data, along with the setting up of a data protection regulator. This is the first step in developing a privacy framework for India.

Meanwhile, the Bill also raises questions about what the government can do with personal data. “It allows the governments to analyse personal data when required and if necessary. However, the government will have to show that it is purely for national interest and is authorised by law,” sources told Tech2.

MediaNama has also shared a statement by Mozilla India's Udbhav Tiwari, who called the bill being too lenient when it came to data processing by the government. "Indians have been waiting for a data protection law for years now, and this latest bill delivers real privacy in regards to processing by companies and is a dramatic step backwards in terms of processing and surveillance by the government. Exceptions for government use of data, the verification of social media users, and the forced transfer of non-personal data all represent new, significant threats to Indians’ privacy. If Indians are to be truly protected, it is urgent that Parliament review and address these dangerous provisions before they become law.”

Recently, SFLC, a legal services organisation, also published a statement on the cabinet's approval of Personal Data Protection Bill 2019.

SFLC has called for the government and MeiTY to release all the comments received during the public consultation on the earlier draft of the Bill. "This will be in line with principles of transparency and will help all stakeholders comprehensively assess the changes proposed in the new version of the Bill. We believe that the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, due its complexity and wide import, must be referred to the Standing Committee on Information Technology post its introduction in either House of Parliament. This will also provide sufficient time to stakeholders to give their comments on the latest version of the Bill," said SFLC.

Many users in India are also reacting to the bill on Twitter right now.

What seems to be the primary concern amongst users is that, per the bill, wherever the government finds it is necessary it can direct that all or any of the provisions of this Act shall not apply to any agency of the government in respect of processing of such personal data.

Essentially, the government will protect users' personal data but not from itself.

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