Whose Idea – Revised Personal Data Protection Bill | 22nd November 2022 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the recently released revised version of the Personal Data Protection Bill.

Relevance:

  • GS2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Analysis:

  • The Union government released the revised version of the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022. for public comments.
  • The bill's earlier version had numerous controversial provisions.

Some of the changes made in the latest version of the bill indicate a rethink on these provisions within the government:

  • For instance, the revised Bill has dropped some of the more contentious rules that govern cross-border data flows after facing considerable opposition from Big Tech.
  • The earlier version of the Bill had imposed stringent conditions on cross-border data flows. Companies were mandated to store a copy of “sensitive” personal data within India, while taking out “critical” personal data from the country was barred.
  • The new draft makes a significant departure on this issue by not imposing any such requirements on firms. Companies do not have to store data exclusively in India.
  • They can now transfer the data to countries which are listed by the government. However, on what basis the government chooses a particular country is not yet clear.

Some of the other aspects of the Bill, however, warrant greater introspection:

  • Take for instance the proposal to set up a Data Protection Board.
    • The board’s members and its chairperson will be appointed at the government’s discretion.
    • This along with indications that the latest version ends up curtailing the board’s powers raise concerns over its independence.
  • Equally contentious are the expansive exemptions that have been afforded to the government and its agencies with limited safeguards.
  • By simple notifications, government agencies can be exempted from the Bill’s provisions on grounds of national security. At a time of government overreach, these arguably contentious provisions, which will vest greater power with government as opposed to an independent statutory authority, need to be reexamined.

Way Forward:

  • Thus, a new draft of the Data Protection Bill is a mixed bag with some positives and some negatives.



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