When we are protesting against NRC, CAA, NPR and rightly so, another draconian bill, namely Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 has been tabled in Loksabha on 11th December, 2019 by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY, ministry currently held by Ravi Shankar Prasad) and most likely it will also become an act very soon. In the following we will briefly look at what it is and why we need to protest against it vehemently, but before doing that we need look at the background and the reason why it is tabled at the first place.
আরও পড়ুন: ক্যাব নিয়ে হইচইয়ের মাঝেই লোকসভায় পেশ হয়ে গেল তথ্য সুরক্ষা বিল
As of now, On 17th December, 2019 the bill has been sent to Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) for consultation. It has been drafted to lay out a framework for data protection of Indian citizens, which will limit usages, processing, collection, retention of (sensitive) personal data of Indians living in India. To achieve this goal a regulatory body has been formed, namely, Data Protection Authority of India. MeitY In 2017 has set up a committee, chaired by retired judge of Supreme Court of India Justice B.N.Srikrishna, to enquire upon the personal data related issues concerning Indian citizens. In July, 2018 this committee has submitted the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018, and it is approved by cabinet ministry on 4th December, 2019 after some deliberation and tabled it as Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 on 11th of December, 2019. The aim is to as it is stated in the bill itself is the following:
to provide for protection of the privacy of individuals relating to their personal data, specify the flow and usage of personal data, create a relationship of trust between persons and entities processing the personal data, protect the rights of individuals whose personal data are processed, to create a framework for organisational and technical measures in processing of data, laying down norms for social media intermediary, cross-border transfer, accountability of entities processing personal data, remedies for unauthorised and harmful processing, and to establish a Data Protection Authority of India for the said purposes and for matters connected there with or incidental thereto.
Now the question is why it is draconian? Why all these hue and cry? Isn’t our government doing the right thing by protecting our sensitive personal data? Isn’t the Sarkar Bahadur is concerned with our privacy in this digital age? Or, only the anti-nationals are making unnecessary and harmful noise about it? The first assertion of danger came from the original drafter of the bill Justice B.N. Srikrishna, as he said in an interview with Economic Times, on 12th December, 2019 the bill is “ dangerous and can turn India into an ‘Orwellian state.’” Because “The government could exempt its agencies from rules that govern processing of personal data citing national security, public order and friendly relations with foreign states. However, this will be subject to procedures, safeguards and oversight mechanism of the respective agency”. Moreover, government “have removed the safeguards. That is most dangerous. The government can at any time access private data or government agency data on grounds of sovereignty or public order. This has dangerous implications.” What are these exemptions that Justice Srikrishna is talking about? The worrying part is that government can use, retain, collect, process our personal data without our consent through its investigative or other such agencies whenever it feels like in the name of ‘national security’, maintaining ‘public order’, and in case of matters concerning external affairs!!! Separate clauses are being inserted in the current bill in chapter-III (GROUNDS FOR PROCESSING OF PERSONAL DATA WITHOUT CONSENT) to make room for such ‘reasonable grounds’ where citizen’s consent is not needed to access their data for purposes as mentioned. These reasonable grounds or purposes where our consent is not required while accessing our personal data are: “the expression “reasonable purposes” may include—(a) prevention and detection of any unlawful activity including fraud; (b) whistle blowing; (c) mergers and acquisitions; (d) network and information security; (e) credit scoring; (f) recovery of debt; (g) processing of publicly available personal data; and (h) the operation of search engines”. Government now empowered with these provisions to even check my search results from search engines (Google, Mozilla; social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp ). These grounds or purposes are entirely left to the discretion of government and its agencies. Doesn’t it lead to political profiling “WHEREAS the right to privacy is a fundamental right and it is necessary to protect personal data as an essential facet of informational privacy”? Doesn’t it a declaration of total surveillance “WHEREAS the growth of the digital economy has expanded the use of data as a critical means of communication between persons”? Isn’t this bill contradicts itself in space of few pages? In Chapter-I clause 2 (A) (c) (ii) it talks about prevention of ‘profiling of data principals’, and in Chapter-III through inserting ‘reasonable purpose’ it provides grounds in the hand of government agencies to profile anybody.
Now isn’t it draconian? Isn’t it lead to a totalitarian state attempting to build a ‘society of control’ where Motha Bhai (Big Brother) can watch us with the help of its infinite eyes all the time. Where all our moves, actions, thoughts, inactions; political, financial, sensitive personal data (concerning health, bio metric, gender, sexual orientation as it is stated in the bill itself) are no more owned by us? Isn’t it breach of fundamental Right to Privacy (Article 21) as enshrined in Constitution of India? Don’t we want get out of this ‘Ghoul’ like dystopia? Moreover we are in the age digital capitalism where all our personal data is being privatized by MNCs, manipulated by governments to capture power; where all our political social or personal existence being sorted as algorithm for selling in digital market place, shouldn’t we protest against such bill? Isn’t the time has arrived to stand up and recapture our own data??? I think we should stand up and reject this bill, this whole game that this system is playing with us all the time. We are not merely a bunch of data, a set of algorithms we are human being who has the potential to change. Say loudly.
Our Data Our Right
My Data My Right
Jai Bhim Lal Salam Note: This is not an exhaustive analysis of the bill but an initial reaction. There are many other highly contentious issues which have been left for future considerations due to lack of space (such as data concerning children, right to erasure etc). It is written for initiating public debate and awareness about where we are heading. Longer article is needed to fathom its importance in our daily lives.
 http://prsindia.org/sites/default/files/bill_files/Personal%20Data%20Protection%20Bill%2C%202019.pdf. And/or http://220.127.116.11/BillsTexts/LSBillTexts/Asintroduced/373_2019_LS_Eng.pdf.
 Ibid. Chapter-1. P.1. Bill No. 373. 2019.
 See page 8-9 of the bill, 2019. Link given in footnote no.2.
 Ibid. p.9.
 Ibid. p. 1.
 Ibid. p.1.
 The provisions of this Act,— (A) shall apply to— …”(ii) in connection with any activity which involves profiling of data principals within the territory of India”. P. 2.
 “(i) financial data;(ii) health data;(iii) official identifier; (iv) sex life; (v) sexual orientation; (vi) biometric data;(vii) genetic data;(viii) transgender status;(ix) intersex status;(x) caste or tribe; (xi) religious or political belief or affiliation; or (xii) any other data categorised as sensitive personal data under section 15”. Ibid. P. 5.
 The web series Ghoul.
cover art by Anupam Roy
“Isn’t it breach of fundamental Right to Privacy (Article 21) as enshrined in Constitution of India?”-
This is technically wrong idea. Right to privacy is a derived fundamental right… means supreme court pronounced it as fundamental right under the meaning of “ritght to life and liberty” Article 21.. so it never enshrined in constitution.
No. 2- “where all our personal data is being privatized by MNCs, manipulated by governments to capture power; where all our political social or personal existence being sorted as algorithm for selling in digital market place, shouldn’t we protest against such bill?”
By those words your argument become self-contradictory. If MNCs are exploiting our personal data then govt. must come up with data protection law. And if Govt. is maniputing our data then there should be zero control on it which by default be controlled by internet giant like facebook…
So.. in both way there will be no privacy
No.3-Your article raised logical concern only regarding private issues and continued with onesided view… there is another side of enormous economic concern both negative and positive.
No.4-“The government could exempt its agencies from rules that govern processing of personal data citing national security, public order and friendly relations with foreign states.”
In my view these are unavoidable necessary words wich become a norm for more than a decade in draft bill and act. I don’t consider it is typical of this govt. Only.
Lastly…. article is well informed. References are credible … flow is well.