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India to Rollout Consumer Data Privacy Standards Similar to GDPR

While the threat of malicious software and would-be identity thieves continues to grow out of control, consumers find themselves taking up yet another fight – the fight over their own personal data. In many ways, giving consumers greater control over their personal information will help to combat the threats of malware, spyware, and computer hackers.

This is exactly what the European Union hoped to achieve with the GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation. Launched in 2018, it was a huge leap forward in the fight to protect consumer data from prying eyes.

Controversial Rules and Standards

But the GDPR wasn't without controversy. According to some, particularly online marketing agencies and advertisers, measures like the GDPR make it more difficult for them to target specific demographics. While this is true, at least to some extent, the tradeoff is necessary to safeguard online consumers in the 21st century.

Moreover, the GDPR has sparked interest from other countries and governmental entities – including India. Although they've recently unveiled their own set of standards, which requires that companies gain the consent of individual citizens before collecting and processing their data, the proposed measures aren't without their own controversy.

Known as the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, the rules include a number of controversial caveats – including the fact that companies are required to release all "non-personal" user data to the government. Even more troubling is the fact that the proposed bill gives the New Delhi government complete and unrestricted access to the personal data of their citizens.

A Bill in the Making

The Personal Data Protection Bill isn't exactly new – it was first introduced in 2017. However, it has undergone several key changes since then, including the addition of the caveats mentioned above. Earlier drafts actually barred the Indian government from having unrestricted access to the personal data of individual citizens.

It's also important to note that India has a vested interest in online data – particularly when it comes to false information. Approximately 30 deaths have been directly attributed to fake messages delivered through WhatsApp in India, especially during a turbulent election season. The Indian government even reached out to WhatsApp in an attempt to gain more control over the spread of fake news and false information.

However, their recently proposed Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 makes no mention of their desire to control or prevent the spread of false information. It does, however, mention increased transparency and accountability across the board.

According to at least one critic, Udbhav Tiware – an advisor to public policy with Mozilla – the new bill would "represent new, significant threats to Indians’ privacy." He continued by saying: "If Indians are to be truly protected, it is urgent that the Parliament reviews and addresses these dangerous provisions before they become law."

As you can see, the path ahead is anything but clear. While there is an obvious need for greater protection over consumer data, both in India and around the world, the current standards proposed through the Personal Data Protection Bill might not be the solution we're looking for.


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