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India’s data protection bill is a clear, cogent piece of draft legislation

Nick Clegg, the policy boss of Facebook parent Meta, welcomed the revised version of India’s proposed Digital Personal Data Protection Bill (DPDP bill), terming it as “really promising”

“I think the new DPDP bill is a clear, cogent piece of draft legislation. It has great clarity about what it’s trying to achieve” Clegg said during a session at the Carnegie Global Technology Summit, moderated by Rudra Chaudhuri, Director, Carnegie India.

Clegg however noted that the draft legislation remits a significant amount of detail to execution “There are lots of twists and turns in terms of how you interpret it and apply it. But in broad terms, it seems to me the Indian government has done some really thoughtful work in terms of this revised draft”

The government had on November 18 released the revised draft digital personal data protection bill, which focuses only on personal data, thereby doing away with regulating the use of non-personal data.

The draft bill requires a data fiduciary — i.e. an entity that processes user data — to give an itemised notice to users on data sought to be collected, in clear and plain language. It also mandates that the user should be allowed the right to give, manage, and withdraw consent from sharing his/her information.

Apart from this, the bill states that the data fiduciary shall not undertake tracking or behavioral monitoring of children or targeted advertising directed at children. It mandates penalties of up to Rs 500 crore for non-compliance.

Top 10 highlights: How the new personal data protection bill affects users and businesses
This bill was necessitated due to the recent withdrawal of the PDP Bill, which had garnered a lot of criticism since its first draft was formulated by the Justice BN Srikrishna Committee in 2018.

The 2019 draft of the bill was criticised over concerns regarding Section 35 of the Bill which empowered the central government to exempt any government agency from provisions of the law, and in regards to Section 12 which allowed for the non-consensual processing of personal data by the state.

“The way that governments operate around the world, it can sometimes be quite difficult for them to accept that maybe they need to revise and rethink. It seems to me that what has happened is there’s been a real process of openness, people have listened to feedback and that’s been enshrined in the new text. I think it’s a really promising turn of events” said Clegg, who previously served as Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2010 to 2015.

Clegg said that he is also encouraged by the fact that India has been “clear and pinned its colors” in favor of open data flows, a move that he believes will be disproportionately important with the country set to assume the chairmanship of the G20 grouping from December 1.

“I think India is entirely entitled to expect the same sort of principle of reciprocity around the world, but doing so in a way which retains that openness of data flows. I think we’re inching towards a more subtle, nuanced, and mature debate” he said.

Global digital rights?
During the session, Clegg also indicated that getting various countries to agree on things like digital rights at a UN (United Nations)-level is very tough due to the level of granular consensus it needs.

“People often talk about the global Internet but it doesn’t exist. My view is if the three great techno democracies in the world – India, the United States and the European Union – can broadly agree on the foundational principles that they think should underpin the governance of the internet, it would be transformative” he said.

Clegg noted that these three democracies are not identical, since they have their own different specificities, cultures, and differences but they are all based on a belief in “entrepreneurialism, individual sovereignty and liberty, ingenuity and dynamism of the market” he said.

“If they could align on some of these big principles that would act as a great locomotive to ensure that the closed paradigm of the Internet doesn’t become a growing and encroaching reality for many billions of people in the future,” he said.

Governance in metaverse
As Meta doubles down on its metaverse ambitions, Clegg said they are trying to have foundational governance debates at the same time as the technology is being developed to avoid a “dislocation between technology and governance”.

“In the past 15-20 years, particularly through the social media age, these technologies erupted incredibly quickly, spreading like wildfire around the world. In many respects, I think we’ve been almost retrospectively now trying to apply the governance rules to those technologies after it has already become prevalent in society” he said.

This has led to a violent mood swing from tech utopianism and tech euphoria at the beginning, to a backlash and sort of tech pessimism, he noted.

In an ideal world, Clegg said legislations such as India’s proposed Digital Personal Data Protection Bill or the upcoming Digital India Act and similar initiatives by Europe, Australia, and the United States should have come at the inception of these technologies and the governance guardrails shouldn’t be retrofitted later.

These debates on foundational questions such as who governs what on the metaverse, the distinction between public and private spaces, safeguarding user privacy and safety, and how commerce will move from one part of the metaverse to the other, will help the future ecosystem

“I think the more we can have a discussion amongst thinkers, philosophers, sociologists, ethicists, governments and regulators, and the industry, and have those debates now, and not retrofit them in 20 years time. I think the ecosystem as a whole will be healthier for it” Clegg said. Moneycontrol

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