India to have new data regulatory authority

On Friday, in a significant development, in a draft report, a panel that has been tasked to draw up regulation on data collection by tech companies has said, New Delhi should set up a data regulator and require companies to disclose how they collect and store data devoid of personal details.

The development underscores India’s move to regularize and formulate policies on citizens’ data held and processed by companies including, Facebook and Google. In 2019, it had set up a panel to make recommendations on the regulation of “non-personal data”.

Anonymized data, or “non-personal data” is a term used for data viewed as a critical resource by companies that analyze it to build their businesses and describes information that is independent of personal details such as names, or anonymized to protect people’s identity.

“There is a need to create a regulator or authority for data business, which provides centralized regulation for all non-personal data exchanges,” said a government-appointed panel in its report.

Such a regulator would be armed with legal powers to request, supervise, share data as well as settle disputes, said the panel.

The panel headed by Kris Gopalakrishnan, founder of Indian tech giant Infosys, declined to comment on the 30-page undated draft.

The recommendations of the panel are in the final stages of deliberation before the report is submitted to the country’s information technology ministry, said a source familiar with the discussions at hand.

Any company collecting data beyond a certain threshold should register as a “data business” in India, reads the report; this also applies to government bodies which need to disclose what information they collect and store, and how they use it.

The panel had consulted companies including Microsoft, Amazon, and Uber, as well as international experts, in drawing up the report, it said.

Regulation of non-personal data is just one of several areas for which India looks to hammer out policy, which will affect tech giants in a regulatory trend gathering momentum worldwide as nations step up efforts to control data.

India has drafted an e-commerce policy that also calls for a new regulator, while a separate privacy bill under review has upset tech companies.

Some data held by the private sector could be drawn on if needed to make policy and back wider social objectives such as healthcare, the panel said.

“The regulation of non-personal data would be driven by the need to unlock the value inherent in this form of data,” said the panel.

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