India cancels personal data bill that worried tech giants

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A data protection bill that has been years in the making appears to have been dropped by the Indian Parliament. The three-year-old bill would have allowed the government to collect user data from companies and restrict the sharing of personal data without consent.

The decision was the result of a parliamentary review process that concluded that a comprehensive new legal framework was needed. Technology and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told reporters that a new personal data law is already in the works and could be released before the end of the year, with the goal of having it passed by early 2023.

« The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 has been deliberated in detail by the Joint Committee of Parliament, 81 amendments have been proposed and 12 recommendations have been issued for a comprehensive legal framework on the digital ecosystem. In light of the JCP report, a comprehensive legal framework is being developed. Therefore, under these circumstances, it is proposed to withdraw the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 and introduce a new bill that fits into the overall legal framework, » he said.

In recent years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party have taken a series of steps to control technology companies, including expanding the government’s censorship powers. 

The bill has drawn criticism from many in the industry. The New Delhi-based privacy group Internet Freedom Foundation said the bill « gives broad exemptions to government services, favors the interests of big business and does not sufficiently respect the fundamental right to privacy. »

Indeed, the latter provides, among other things, that technology companies must store certain sensitive data about users in India only in the country, would have posed a large number of challenges for global tech giants seeking to expand their services in India, the world’s second largest Internet market after China, with more than half a billion Indians online.

As a result, several industry leaders had written to the government warning that these standards would worsen the business environment in the country and reduce the inflow of foreign investment. 

Facebook, Twitter, and Google have been concerned for many years about the multiple separate regulations India has proposed for the technology sector, which often strains relations between New Delhi and Washington.

 

By Mélissa Walehiane

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