- The dawn of the information age opened up great opportunities for the beneficial use of data. It also enhanced the perils of unregulated and arbitrary use of personal data. Unauthorised leaks, hacking and other cyber crimes have rendered data bases vulnerable. But it is the conflict between the massive scope for progress provided by the digital era and the fear of loss of individual autonomy that is foregrounded in any debates about data protection laws.
- It is against this backdrop that the White Paper made public by the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee to elicit views from the public on the shape and substance of a comprehensive data protection law assumes significance. To some, in this era of Big Data analytics and automated, algorithm-based processing of zettabytes of information, the fear that their personal data may be unprotected may conjure up visions of a dystopian world in which individual liberties are compromised. Therefore, it would be appropriate to draw up a law using the rights-based approach of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, 2016, in which data protection is comprehensive and exemptions limited. Some may prefer the American model in which the norms are stringent for government departments processing personal information, while private entities have to abide by the norms of giving notice and receiving consent. An enlightened citizenry will only help itself in participating in the search for a good data protection framework.
- India does not have a separate law for data protection, though Section 43A of the Information Technology Act provides a measure of legal protection of personal information. In 2012, the Justice A.P. Shah Committee recommended a set of principles for a legal framework for protecting privacy. Drawn from OECD guidelines, these principles were centred on sufficient notice and disclosure to citizens when data are collected, limitations on data collection and use, and norms related to data security and accountability. The Srikrishna Committee has also flagged seven major principles. It wants the law to be technology-agnostic and enshrine the principle of informed consent. It favours data minimisation and accountability of those who process and control data. It privileges a holistic approach as the law would apply to both government and private entities, but with “differential obligations”. This is where the law requires careful drafting and strictly defined concepts. It is legitimate to collect personal data in the public interest, but this information should be protected and used only for the purposes it was collected. Above all, the law must provide for a suitably empowered statutory authority to enforce its promised protection to citizens’ data.
Dawn: the first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise.
Example: The rose-pink light of dawn
Synonyms: daybreak, sunrise, first light, daylight, first thing in the morning, sun-up
Enhance: intensify, increase, or further improve the quality, value, or extent of.
Example: His refusal does nothing to enhance his reputation
Synonyms: increase, add to, intensify, heighten, magnify, amplify
Render: provide or give a service, help, etc.
Example: Money serves as a reward for services rendered
Synonyms: give, provide, supply, furnish, contribute, offer, proffer
Conflict: a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one.
Example: The eternal conflict between the sexes
Synonyms: dispute, quarrel, squabble, disagreement, dissension
Autonomy: the right or condition of self-government, especially in a particular sphere.
Example: Tatarstan demanded greater autonomy within the Russian Federation
Elicit: evoke or draw out a response, answer, or fact from someone in reaction to one’s own actions or questions.
Example: They invariably elicit exclamations of approval from guests
Synonyms: obtain, draw out, extract, bring out, evoke, call forth, bring forth, induce
Substance: a particular kind of matter with uniform properties.
Example: A steel tube coated with a waxy substance
Synonyms: material, matter, stuff
Conjure: make something appear unexpectedly or seemingly from nowhere as if by magic.
Example: Anne conjured up a most delicious homemade stew
Synonyms: produce, make appear, materialize, summon
Stringent: strict, precise, and exacting.
Example: California’s air pollution guidelines are stringent
Synonyms: strict, firm, rigid, rigorous, severe, harsh, tough, tight, exacting, demanding
Consent: permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.
Example: No change may be made without the consent of all the partners
Synonyms: agreement, assent, acceptance, approval, approbation, permission
Enlighten: having or showing a rational, modern, and well-informed outlook.
Example: The more enlightened employers offer better terms
Synonyms: informed, well-informed, aware, sophisticated, advanced
Disclosure: the action of making new or secret information known.
Example: A judge ordered the disclosure of the government documents
Synonyms: revelation, declaration, announcement, news, report, leak
Enshrine: place a revered or precious object in an appropriate receptacle.
Example: Relics are enshrined under altars
Statutory: required, permitted, or enacted by statute.
Example: The courts did award statutory damages to each of the plaintiffs