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Two public consultation documents removed from MeitY website

Two draft documents listing guidelines on data anonymisation and mobile security were on Tuesday missing from a government website, a week after being put up for public consultation.

Anonymisation is a technique that removes or modifies personally identifiable information, resulting in data that cannot be associated with any one individual. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has not said why the document, ‘Guidelines for Anonymisation of Data (AoD) and Mobile Security Guidelines (MSG), was removed from the official portal for e-governance standards after being put up there on August 30. Details shared with the documents had said public comments about them will be accepted till September 21.

The document included guidelines for all stakeholders involved in processing personal data and its subtypes through e-governance projects. It aimed to lay down recommended practices for processing data gathered by e-governance portals such as Cowin vaccination, Aarogya Setu, National Health Mission, etc. A second document on Mobile Security Guidelines included measures to help protect privacy, sensitive data, and the security of transactions.

Civil society organisations and advocacy groups said the documents’ removal showed the lack of clarity and accountability in the consultation process.

“This is the third such instance that a public consultation process has been interrupted without any notice or acknowledgment this year,” said Prateek Waghre, director–policy at Internet Freedom Foundation.

The draft India Data Accessibility & Use Policy, 2022 was updated without any notification, and similarly the draft amendment to the IT Rules, 2021 was taken down during public consultations. “The broader concern is that this has become a kind of a trend. It is affecting how the people would view the public consultation process,” he said.

Advocacy groups said they were also surprised that the documents were released on a new website, instead of the official website of MeitY.

“It was hard enough to determine that this document was open for public feedback in the first place. No press release accompanied these documents. The draft was not made available on the MeitY’s website. It was difficult to find the draft that was said to be open for public review,” Waghre said.

A spokesperson of a global trade organisation, who does not wish to be named, said: “We predicted this to happen after seeing the way in which the documents were introduced. It is concerning that this has become the pattern in public consultation processes now.” Business Standard

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