‘Next step is to widen public engagement ’

Model Bill is policy fix for privacy concerns

June 18, 2018 01:46 am | Updated 01:46 am IST - New Delhi

Advocate Apar Gupta, co-founder of the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), tells Soibam Rocky Singh about the model Bill — Indian Privacy Code, 2018 — which seeks to protect the privacy of individuals in India

What is the need for the model Bill? What are the immediate privacy concerns for an individual?

We believe the Indian Privacy Code, 2018, though a model Bill that will change and become better in time, puts through a comprehensive statute — a user-right focussed data protection law. This is a policy fix for recurring concerns and controversies, including issues such as Aadhaar, Cambridge Analytica, the social media communication hub and the Snowden revelations on mass surveillance.

How is this the model Bill different from what the Srikrishna Committee is looking into?

The Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee is an ongoing process which is looking at the issue of data protection with a limited mandate, which may not include surveillance reform and may not fully protect user rights.

It has also had concerns on its lack of diversity and transparency in its proceedings.

While we have engaged with the committee and hope it adopts parts of the seven core principles for protecting privacy we have put out model language in the Indian Privacy Code, 2018, to further understanding and debate.

What prompted this model Bill since the 2017 Supreme Court privacy verdict?

The Indian Privacy Code, 2018, draws from several progressive texts, which include the Supreme Court privacy verdict. The seven privacy principles which give rise to the model Bill are based on texts and privacy verdicts, including the Justice A.P. Shah Committee report, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and submissions made by civil society groups to the Srikrishna panel.

What is your next step?

Our next step is to widen public engagement and feedback on the model Bill. It is important to remember that this is the first draft which will improve as more people participate and give suggestions on how to make it better. Thereafter, we plan on parliamentary engagement strategies to ensure that India gets a comprehensive data protection law soon that fully protects our privacy.

Many privacy concerns are linked to the Aadhaar Act. Does Indian Privacy Code, 2018, address them?

The Indian Privacy Code, 2018, has an overriding effect on the Aadhaar Act.... It will, for instance, bring in principles of purpose limitation and the office of the privacy commissioner will be able to issue directions to the UIDAI.

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