India is a sovereign Country for 75 years. But we are still a of the Big Tech Companies

The withdrawal of the PDPB 2019 with a cryptic statement by the honourable Minister of Railways and IT, Sri Ashwini Vaishnaw indicates that India does not want to do anything which the Big Tech companies of the west does not want us to do. Our own NASSCOM is a powerful ally of the Big Tech and now the Ministry has exposed the chinks in its armour.

But we, the Indians understand through our Colonial Experience that we are comfortable as citizens of a colony whether it is geographical colony or Data Colony.

The following news item reflects how insensitive we are to the cause of Privacy and Data Protection.

There appears to be no discussion in the Parliament on why the Bill was being withdrawn though subsequently several reasons are being given.

Some of the reasons were

  1. There are 81 amendments in a 99 section bill. It is therefore a total overhaul by JPC.
  2. Big Tech are concerned with the Data Localization aspect of the Bill
  3. Section 35 gives too much power to Government for surveillance

Though the number of amendments look large, most of it are cosmetic changes and language corrections. Basically there were 12 major recommendations only.

There was no “Data Localization” requirement and it is false to say that it was a concern. PDPB 2018 had more stringent provisions and not PDPB 2019.

Section 35 was subordinated to Article 19(2) of the constitution and did not create any Orwellian state as was alleged. “Security” of the citizens of India does require surveillance at some level and there has to be some exemptions provided to the law enforcement agencies. What may be debated is the control to ensure that there is no misuse.

Unfortunately, the Government is mortally afraid of the opposition parties and their disruption tactics in the Parliament and instead of instilling discipline in these ‘Andolan Jeevis” prefers to run away from the battle field like a coward. The developments remind us of the Mahabharata Incident of “Uttara” going to war against the Kauravas and running away from the battle field.

Independent observers feel that the Government in this instance has succumbed to the pressures from the industry led by NASSCOM and representing the interests of the big tech.

There is still a mindset among our rulers that we cannot do what the Big Tech does not want us to do. This is letting the Big Tech create “Data Colony” in India and control our future.

Mr Ravishankar Prasad was eased out of the ministry because he was too aggressive against Twitter. Now the ministry is more friendly to the industry and hence after several rounds of extensions, pretexts etc, they have withdrawn the Bill in its entirety. One should be too naïve not to understand what is going on behind the scenes.

It is easy to lose credibility and reputation and it will take several more years to regain the international credibility for India’s commitment to data protection. Those of us who interact with the data protection professionals from across the globe know that India has become a laughing stock before the world at least in the Data Protection area.

This loss of credibility cannot be regained quickly even of a modified bill is presented in the proverbial “next or next to next” Parliamentary session.

If we have to believe the sources, we can look for a “More Comprehensive” and “Perfect” law for the entire Technology domain which is contemporary and for the future generation.

Great… We all know that the Supreme Court itself has not been able to give a good definition of Privacy even in the Puttaswamy judgement and the definition of “Personal Data” itself is an enigma. The first step before the Government is therefore to find a proper definition of “Privacy” and “Data” before they can search for a “Perfect” law.

Finding a comprehensive legislation which is also perfect, to combine the Information Technology Act, the Telecom regulations and the Data protection legislation is a utopian dream which we shall now try to pursue since life without a positive dream is not worth living.

My hunch is that there is a conspiracy of the industry  which has effectively taken over the decision making in the IT ministry. This industry lobby is capable of taking day to day decisions in the IT ministry. Whether it is the NASSCOM or GOOGLE, FACEBOOK or JIO, we donot know and probably we will never know. But it is clear that there exists a force that is driving the Government into taking decisions which are prima facie illogical.

I personally believe that the Crypto Lobby which has become part of the “Meta” lobby today is behind the financing of this Big Tech influencing of our politicians. We have not forgotten that this lobby had compromised the Judiciary already and rendered RBI to an impotent regulator some time back. The Finance ministry has always been subjugated to the interests of the Crypto lobby which even tried to influence the JPC into adding some recommendations in favour of the use of Crypto Currencies in international transactions though this was completely out of scope of the JPC’s frame of reference.

Otherwise, it would not have been necessary to withdraw the Bill which had already been presented, gone through 78 sittings of JPC, 184 hours and 20 minutes of deliberations. The same bill could have been refined further if required and could have been made more “Contemporaneous” to accommodate whatever was the dream of the Ministry. If we can change the title of the Bill itself through an amendment, it would have been possible to change the preamble also and convert the DPA 2021 or DPA 2022 into a “Comprehensive, Perfect Digital Act which regulated the entire universe of technology”.

Despite the disillusionment that surrounds us, for some more time however, we continue to keep our faith in Mr Narendra Damodar Das Modi as an individual to ensure that vested interests donot succeed in their lobbying in converting India into a “Data Colony” in the year of Amrit Mahotsav of our 75 years of independence.

But Mr Modi needs to understand the power of digital black money which in the coming days will rule the world more than the US dollars. It appears that he is today ignoring this threat and letting the Crypto lobbies to have a free rein first in the Finance Ministry and now apparently in the IT Ministry.

May God give strength to Modi to extend the struggle of independence to the Digital World.


Copy of the JPC report in full

Dissent Notes filed for JPC Report

About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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