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Why India Is Still Nowhere Near Securing Its Citizens’ Data?

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By Nishant Arora

It was the perfect photo-op when Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a town-hall meeting at the social media giant’s sprawling headquarters at Menlo Park, California, in September 2015.

With Facebook now embroiled in a massive data breach controversy, the bonhomie appears to be over, with India warning Zuckerberg of “stringent action”, including summoning him over the “misuse” of information to allegedly influence the country’s electoral process.

Zuckerberg has recently said Facebook will ensure that its platform is not misused to influence elections in India and elsewhere, but after witnessing how social media platforms were infiltrated during the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit vote in the UK, nothing can be predicted at this point of time.

ALSO READ: Data breaches forced governments and enterprises to focus on cyber security

While governments the world over are fast formulating new laws that deal with users' data security and privacy, and the spread of false news, India lags far behind on this front
While governments the world over are fast formulating new laws that deal with users’ data security and privacy, and the spread of false news, India lags far behind on this front. Pixabay

 

Is the country prepared in case a huge security or privacy breach hits its people?

According to top cyber law experts, India as a nation has missed the broader point in the ever-changing tech landscape.

“The moot point here is: How do we regulate mobile app providers, social media players and intermediaries in terms of handling and processing the users’ information? We don’t have a data protection law in place. We neither have a national law on cyber security nor a national law on privacy,” Pavan Duggal, the nation’s leading cyber law expert, told IANS.

The absence of these critical laws has created a very fertile ground for the misuse and unauthorised access of user information by the service providers.

“On top of it, India has not revisited its stand on intermediaries’ liabilities since 2008. Also, the service providers have been given a great fillip by a judgement of the Supreme court, where the service providers are directed not to take any action till such time they get a court or a government agency order,” Duggal informed.

ALSO READ: India, US to enhance cyber security cooperation

In such a scenario, service providers are using the "Indians' data with impunity".
In such a scenario, service providers are using the “Indians’ data with impunity”. Pixabay

 

“They are transferring them outside the territorial boundaries of the country because we as a nation are sleeping. Once the data goes outside the country, the government loses all control. This has a detrimental impact on the protection and preservation of people’s data privacy and personal privacy,” Duggal stressed.

India has to learn from the European Union (EU) when it comes to formulating a legal framework to secure data.

The EU has asked businesses and service providers globally to comply with its new privacy law — the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — that comes into force from May 25 this year.

The EU GDPR has been designed to harmonise data privacy laws across Europe — to protect and empower all EU citizens’ data privacy and to reshape the way organisations across the region approach data privacy.

After four years of debate, the GDPR was finally approved by the EU Parliament on April 14, 2016. Organisations that fail to comply with the new regulation will face hefty fines.

Although a white paper on data security has been published by the Indian government for all the stakeholders to deliberate upon, the country is still working on drafting a data protection bill.

“India is woefully under-prepared to address issues of data protection and cyber-security. We need a data protection law that protects citizens from misuse of data with strict liability and extremely high statutory damages that must be awarded within a strict period of time,” said Mishi Choudhary, President and Legal Director of New Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC.in), a not-for-profit organisation.

According to Duggal, also a noted Supreme Court lawyer, India should not cut-paste any other country's law as it has to deal with a different set of problems.
According to Duggal, also a noted Supreme Court lawyer, India should not cut-paste any other country’s law as it has to deal with a different set of problems. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Kremlin Reportedly Planning to Revive KGB-style Security Behemoth

“India’s social realities are entirely different. The country has to deal with the huge issue of Aadhaar which is reeling under variety of cyber attacks because we have failed to apply cyber security as an integral part of the Aadhaar architecture,” Duggal told IANS.

India’s approach has to be based from its soil and the country must strive for information localisation.

“India should not allow its data to be stored outside its boundaries. Service providers must (be made to pay) high penalty if they are found to be misusing the data of Indians irrespective of if they are physically located in the country or not,” Duggal said. IANS

  • You’ve said that right. I am also from India.
    The data security is one serious topic. and our government must work on it. I have recently lost my websites in data breach attacks.

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  • You’ve said that right. I am also from India.
    The data security is one serious topic. and our government must work on it. I have recently lost my websites in data breach attacks.

    • hosmathospital897

      Dear Sir /Madam,
      Hello , Are you interested to selling one of your kidney for a good amount
      of {$800.000USD} in India pls kindly Contact us now on our email: as we are
      looking for kidney donor, Very urgently who are group B,group A ,O ve and 0
      ve. Interested Donor should contact us now.

      Best Regards:
      Dr Mayur R Shetty
      Phone Call ;+918496054892
      hosmathospital803@gmail.com
      HOSMAT KIDNEY REPLACEMENT CENTER

Next Story

Facebook Violated Cyber Security Law: Vietnam

In November, Vietnam said it wanted half of social media users on domestic social networks by 2020 and plans to prevent "toxic information" on Facebook and Google.

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Facebook, data, vietnam
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

Facebook has violated Vietnam’s new cybersecurity law by allowing users to post anti-government comments on the platform, state media said on Wednesday, days after the controversial legislation took effect in the communist-ruled country.

Despite economic reforms and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate dissent.

“Facebook had reportedly not responded to a request to remove fan pages provoking activities against the state,” the official Vietnam News Agency said, citing the Ministry of Information and Communication.

In a statement, a Facebook spokeswoman said, “We have a clear process for governments to report illegal content to us, and we review all these requests against our terms of service and local law.”

Facebook, data, photos, vietnam
A smartphone user displays a Facebook newsfeed .VOA

She did not elaborate.

The ministry said Facebook also allowed personal accounts to upload posts containing “slanderous” content, anti-government sentiment and defamation of individuals and organizations, the agency added.

“This content had been found to seriously violate Vietnam’s Law on cybersecurity” and government regulations on the management, provision and use of internet services, it quoted the ministry as saying.

Global technology companies and rights groups have earlier said the cybersecurity law, which took effect on Jan. 1 and includes requirements for technology firms to set up local offices and store data locally, could undermine development and stifle innovation in Vietnam.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech, Russia, digital, vietnam
A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France. VOA

Company officials have privately expressed concerns that the new law could make it easier for the authorities to seize customer data and expose local employees to arrest.

Facebook had refused to provide information on “fraudulent accounts” to Vietnamese security agencies, the agency said in Wednesday’s report.

The information ministry is also considering taxing Facebook for advertising revenue from the platform.

Also Read: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Gears up For Debates on Public Forums

The report cited a market research company as saying $235 million was spent on advertising on Facebook in Vietnam in 2018, but that Facebook was ignoring its tax obligations there.

In November, Vietnam said it wanted half of social media users on domestic social networks by 2020 and plans to prevent “toxic information” on Facebook and Google. (VOA)