Tag Archives: data protection

Draft Enabling Framework for Regulatory Sandbox

In July 2016 the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had setup an inter-regulatory Working Group to look into and report on various aspects relating to fintech. One of the key recommendations of the Working Group was the introduction of an appropriate framework for a regulatory sandbox. Thus on 24th April 2019, the RBI has come out with a Draft Enabling Framework for Regulatory Sandbox (“Draft Framework”).

Before we proceed with the details regarding the Draft Framework it is important to understand the concept of a regulatory sandbox.  Regulatory sandbox (RS) refers to live testing of new products or services in a controlled/ tested regulatory environment for which the regulators may permit certain relaxation in the regulations only for the limited purpose of testing. The RS allows the entities to test their product in a controlled environment before a wider-scale launch. Thus the RS at its core is a formal regulatory programme for market participants to test new products, services, business models with customers in a live environment subject to certain safeguards and oversights.  Further, RBI in its Working Group Paper also discussed the concept of an ‘innovation hub’ which provides support, advice or guidance to regulated or unregulated firms in navigating the regulatory framework or identifying the legal issues.

Eligibility criteria of an applicant

The Draft Framework lays down the eligibility criteria for participating in the RS. The target applicants for entry in the RS are fintech firms which meet the prescribed conditions of a start-up by the Government. The focus of the RS is to encourage innovation where (a) there is an absence of regulations, (b) there is a need to temporarily ease the regulations for the proposed innovation, and (c) the proposed innovation shows promise of easing the delivery of financial services.

The RS shall begin the testing process with 10-12 selected entities through a comprehensive selection process which has been detailed under the ‘Fit and Proper criteria for selection of participants in the RS’. The entities should satisfy the following conditions: (a)  the entity should be a company incorporated and registered in India and should be “Start up” , (b) the entity should have a minimum net worth of Rs 50 lakhs as per its latest audited balance sheet, (c) the promoters/ directors of the entity should be fit and proper and a declaration should be made to that effect, (d) the conduct of the bank accounts as well as the entity’s promoters/directors should be satisfactory, (e) a satisfactory CIBIL or equivalent credit score of the promoters/directors of the entity is required, (f) applicant should showcase that their product/services and ready for deployment in the broader market, (g) entity should demonstrate arrangements to ensure compliance with regulations on consumer data protection and privacy, and (h) the entity should have adequate safeguards related to the IT system to ensure safety of data and records.

The fintech solution proposed by the applicant should highlight the existing gap in the financial system and demonstrate that there is a regulatory barrier that prevents the deployment of the product/service. Additionally, the applicant should clearly define the test scenarios and the expected outcomes from the sandbox experimentation and an acceptable exit and transition strategy in case the fintech driven solutions are discontinued or deployed on a broader scale after exiting the RS. To this effect, the applicant is required to share the result of the proof of concept/ testing of use cases including any relevant prior experiences before getting admission into RS for testing.

Design features of the RS

The RS may run a few cohorts i.e. end-to-end sandbox process, with a limited number of entities in each cohort testing their products in a stipulated time. The RS shall be based on different subjects focusing on areas such as financial inclusion, payments, digital KYC, etc. Though these cohorts may run for varying time period but it should ordinarily be completed within 6 months.

The innovative products/services which could be considered for testing under RS would include retail payments, money transfer services, market places lending, digital KYC, financial advisory services, smart contract, cybersecurity products, etc. On the other hand, the innovative technology which could be considered for testing under RS would include data analytics, API services, applications using block chain, AI and machine learning applications and mobile technology applications.

Regulatory requirements for RS applicant and exclusions from RS

The regulatory requirements which shall be mandatorily adhered to by the applicant are: (a) customer privacy and data protection, (b) security of transactions, (c) KYC/ AML/ CFT requirements, (d) secure storage of and access to payment data of stakeholders, and (e) statutory requirements.

However, an entity would not be suitable for RS if the proposed financial service is similar to a product/service/technology which already is being offered in India unless the applicant can show that either a different technology is gainfully applied or the same technology is being used in a more effective and efficient manner. Accordingly, the Draft Regulations have put together an indicative negative list of products/ services/ technology which may not be accepted for testing. The list includes businesses related to credit registries, credit information, crypto-currency, initial coin offerings and chain marketing services.

Extending or Exiting the RS

In case the sandbox entity requires an extension of the sandbox period it shall apply to the RBI within one (1) month before the expiration of the sandbox period. Further, RBI at its discretion can discontinue the RS testing for an entity if it does not achieve the intended purpose or if the entity is unable to comply with the relevant regulatory requirements.  The sandbox entity may exit from the RS on its own by informing the RBI one week in advance.

Boundary conditions, transparency, and consumer protection

A sandbox must have a well-defined space and duration for the proposed financial services to be launched and the boundary conditions for the RS shall include the start and end date of RS, target customer type, limit the number of customers involved, transaction ceiling, and cap on customer. Further, the RBI shall communicate the entire RS process including the launch, theme of the cohort, entry and exit criteria on its website to ensure transparency. And as stated earlier before discontinuing/ exiting from the RS, the sandbox entity shall ensure that it meets all the existing obligations towards its customers and entering into an RS does not limit the liability of the entity towards its customers.

Sandbox process and stages

The end to end sandbox process, including the test of the products/ services shall be overseen by the FinTech Unit (FTU) at RBI, and the stages involved in the RS are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Preliminary Screening (4 weeks) – FTU shall ensure that the applicant clearly understands the objectives and principles of the RS, and it is in this phase the application received by the FTU are evaluated and shortlisted who meet the eligibility criteria.
  • Stage 2: Testing Design (3 weeks) – In this phase which lasts for 3 weeks the FTU finalizes the test design through an iterative engagement with the applicant and shall identify the outcome metrics for evaluating the evidence of risk or benefits.
  • Stage 3: Application Assessment (3weeks) – In this phase the FTU vets the test design and proposes regulatory modifications if any.
  • Stage 4: Testing (12 weeks) – The testing may last for a maximum tenure for 12 weeks. In this phase, the FTU generates empirical evidence to assess the test conducted.
  • Stage 5: Evaluation (4 weeks) – The final evaluation of the outcome of testing the products/ services/ technology is confirmed in this phase by RBI. The FTU shall assess the outcome report and decide whether the product/service is viable and acceptable under RS.  

Statutory and legal issues

If the applicant is allowed by the FTU into the RS, the entity would be provided by appropriate regulatory support by RBI in the form of relaxation of specific regulatory requirements during the duration of the RS. However, RBI shall not bear any liability arising from the RS process and any liability arising from the experiment has to be borne by the entity alone. Further, the sandbox entity should ensure that on exiting from the RS or on the completion of the RS process, the sandbox entity should fully comply with all the relevant regulatory requirements.

Source:

1.https://m.rbi.org.in/scripts/PublicationReportDetails.aspx?UrlPage=&ID=920#A_2

2.Report of the Working Group on FinTech and Digital Banking- https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/PublicationReportDetails.aspx?UrlPage=&ID=892

Results of the Second Intercollegiate Competition on Data Protection – The New Frontier

The results of the “Second Intercollegiate Competition on Data Protection – The New Frontier” are out.

The Essay competition was devised with the intent of apprising law students with the regulatory developments in the field of data protection. We are glad to have received an overwhelmingly positive response to this initiative.

The winners of the Competition are:

1. Gayatri Puthran – Jindal Global Law School
2. Shashank Saurabh – National University of Study and Research in Law
3. Anisha Singh – Chanakya National Law University
We would like to congratulate all the winners and wish them all the very best.

Draft E-commerce Policy: The dawn of a new beginning

Data is the basic building block of everything we are trying to do in this age of Industry 4.0. Data is a valuable resource for any individual, corporation or the Government. Data can be used for analytical, statistical, business, security purposes among various other things. Keeping ‘data’ central to the idea of governing the e-Commerce industry in India the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade on February 23, 2019, published the ‘Draft e-Commerce Policy’ (“Draft Policy”).

The overall objective of the Draft Policy is to prepare and enable stakeholders to fully benefit from the opportunities that would arise from progressive digitalization of the domestic digital economy. The Draft Policy focuses on data protection, the State’s paternalistic attitude towards the use of the citizen’s data and cross border transactions. The Draft Policy intends to regulate some things beyond e-commerce i.e. it proposes to regulate technologies like AI, IoT, Cloud computing and Cloud-as-a-Service etc. On a holistic level, it is understood that these technologies empower e-commerce industry currently and are integral to its growth and therefore the Government intends to bring these technologies under the purview of the Draft Policy. The Draft Policy is a mix of visionary thought process, advanced technological solutions, putting in place digital infrastructure to support India’s digital economy etc.

DATA

The Draft Policy resonates the idea and intent of the legislature that is formulated under the Data Protection Bill, 2018 as far as the rights over data of an individual is concerned. The collective idea of the Draft Policy is to streamline the protection of personal data and empowerment of the users/consumers with respect to the data they generate and own. Though the question to be assessed here is whether this is the real intent of the Draft Policy?

The Draft Policy recognises the rights of an individual over its data by stating that “An Individual owns the right to his data” and therefore the use of an individual’s personal data shall be made only upon seeking his/her express consent. It further states that the data of a group is a collective data and therefore a collective property of that particular group; it extends this rationale to state that “Thus, the data that is generated in India belongs to Indians, as do the derivatives there from”. But the Draft Policy ends up categorising data of Indians as a collective resource and therefore a “national resource”.

The abovementioned intent of the Draft Policy is fair and strives to achieve the greater good of the country, but at what stake? If personal data belongs to an individual then this objective appears that the State wants to interfere with the personal rights of a person. The Draft Policy clearly states that “All such data stored abroad shall not be made available to other business entities outside India, for any purpose, even with the customer’s consent”, what follows this point in the Draft Policy, restricts sharing of data with any third party in a foreign country even if the individual has consented to such sharing of the data.

The intent behind such restriction is that currently, India lacks stringent laws regarding cross-border flow of data. If there are no strict restrictions on cross-border flow of data Indian stakeholders will merely be engaged in back end processing of data for the EU / US based e-commerce entities without having the ability to create any high-value digital products. While the Government considers data as a national resource and compares it with coal, telecom spectrums etc. it ignores the fact that the inherent nature of personal data is that it belongs to an individual and not to the State, unlike coal.

The obvious reason as to why the State is taking such a stance is to eliminate issues related to consent asymmetry. But is this paternalistic attitude warranted?

If the Government is worried about foreign countries using our national resource i.e. data to their advantage it should put in place stringent data privacy and protection laws in India taking inferences from other countries.

DATA INFRASTRUCTURE

The Draft Policy takes forward the digital India initiative and intends put in place secure and digital infrastructure and encourage the development of data –storage facilities/ infrastructure including data centres, server farms, towers, tower stations, equipment, optical wires, signal transceivers, antenna etc.

The Government will add the above-mentioned infrastructure facilities in the  ‘Harmonized Master List’. This will enable regulation of the listed infrastructure in a more streamlined manner. Whereas the infrastructure will be put in place by various implementing agencies, while financing agencies may identify these as infrastructure that they may intend to support. This will facilitate achieving last mile connectivity across urban and rural India.

The Government by developing such data/digital infrastructure wishes to support India’s fast-growing digital economy and create employment.

EASE OF REGULATION

Given the interdisciplinary nature of e-commerce, it is important for the Government to tackle various regulatory challenges. The Draft Policy suggests formulating a Standing Group of Secretaries on e-Commerce (SGoS), which shall be an important body for tackling various legal issues emerging from various statutes such and Information Technology Act, 2000 and rules thereunder, the Competition Act, 2002 and the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Additionally, the Draft Policy states that “All e-Commerce websites and application available for downloading in India must have a registered business entity in India as the importer on record or the entity through which all sales in India are transacted”.

SIGNIFICANT HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DRAFT POLICY

  • The Government intends to continue charging custom tariffs on any digital goods being traded electronically (imposing custom duties on electronic transmissions). Whereas the Government is strict on its stance of not accepting the permanent moratorium on custom tariffs for goods (including digital goods) traded electronically as proposed by the WTO.
  • The Draft Policy states that there should technological standards put in place for emerging technologies like IoT, AI etc.
  • The Draft Policy introduces a term, namely ‘Infant Industry’ under which small scale entities facing entry barriers to enter the market will be integrated with market keeping data as a central to this integration. This will also help strengthen platforms like ‘e-lala’ and ‘Tribes India’.
  • The Government intends to establish technology wings in each Government department.
  • The Government intends to streamline the process of importing goods in India and harmonise the functions of various administrative bodies involved in the process of import of goods in India.
  • A body of industry stakeholders will be created that shall identify ‘rogue websites’. These rogue websites will be added to ‘Infringing Website List’ (IWL). IWL will enable the ISPs to remove or disable these websites. It will also enable payment gateways to curtail the flow of payments to or from such rogue websites. Search engines will be able to efficiently remove such rogue websites identified in the IWL.
  • There shall be no trade mark infringement and customers at large shall not be deceived by using deceptively similar trademarks. In case an e-Commerce entity receives a complaint about a counterfeit/fake product which is manufactured with intent to deceive the customers. The e-Commerce entity shall convey such misuse of the trademark within 12 hours from receiving the complaint to the trade mark owner. Whereas in case any prohibited goods/products have been sold on any e-commerce platform the entity operating such e-Commerce platform shall delist such products within 24 hours from receiving such complaint.
  • Any non-compliant e-Commerce entity will be not be given access to operate in India.
  • All e-Commerce sites/apps available to Indian consumers shall display prices in INR and must have MRPs on all packaged products, physical products and invoices generated.
  • In the view of misuse of ‘gifting’ route, as an interim measure, all such parcels shall be banned, with exception of life-saving drugs.
  • Details of sellers shall be available for all the products sold online.
  • Sellers shall provide undertaking regarding genuineness of any product sold online.
  • In case of a counterfeit product is sold to a consumer, the primary onus to resolve such an issue will be of the seller but the intermediaries shall return the money paid to them by the customer and the marketplace shall seize to host such products on their platforms.
  • The intermediaries shall curtail piracy on their platforms.
  • An integrated system that connects Customs, RBI and India Post to be developed to better track imports.
  • The Draft Policy also intends to simplify the processes involved in export of goods by doing away with redundant requirements such as the need to procure Bank Realisation Certification

Once the final e-Commerce policy is enacted what will be interesting to see is whether Government opts for ease of governance or ease of doing business.

Overall this Draft Policy is a positive step towards making India one of the most prominent digital economies in the world, especially considering the strict stance the Government has taken during the WTO negotiations by not accepting the permanent moratorium on waiving custom duties on digital goods sold through electronic transmission. The Government intends to boost the local and home grown e-Commerce business entities and to provide a level playing field for MSMEs by retaining the rights to impose tariffs on electronic transmission through e-Commerce. Certain issues regarding data/personal data of an individual still needs a deep intellectual thinking, integrated with a practical approach from the Government before implementing a sector-wide policy, especially keeping in mind that at the end of the day personal data belongs to an individual and the use of such personal data shall be the decision of the respective individuals and not of the State.

Author: Manas Ingle, Associate, NovoJuris Legal

Data Protection and the many facets of it: Inter-collegiate Essay Competition

NovoJuris Legal is proud to announce the Inter-collegiate Essay Competition on Data Protection and its various facets. 

Data Protection has taken very high importance not only in India but across the World. The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 (“Bill”) and the Data Protection Committee’s (“Committee”) Report (released on 27 July 2018) provides for the framework and the policymakers’ insight on protection of individual’s privacy and personal data in India. The Bill has set high expectations particularly after the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) came into force on 25 May 2018. It is also essential to note the important judgments including the now famous “Aadhar case” of Justice Puttaswamy (Retd.) V. Union of India.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in April this year has mandated that all data generated by the payment systems in India, is to be stored in India. The Ministry of Health and Welfare has also published the draft legislation called Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act, to safeguard e-health records and patients’ privacy.

Thus, all these new rules/policies/regulations (collectively referred as “the Data Protection Framework”) indicate a very strong direction that the Government wishes to undertake on protection of data including but not limited to data localisation, which helps in enforcing data protection, nation’s security and protect its citizen’s data, better control on transmission of data outside the country and more.

Topics for the Essay Competition:

The following sub-themes have been identified as requiring academic consideration:

  1. General Data Protection Regulation in European Union has raised the bar on legislation on data protection across the world. Would this be beneficial or would it stunt technological growth and innovation?
  2. Is our Privacy safe under the Aadhar scheme? A critical analysis of change in the privacy law regime post Aadhar case in India.
  3. Implication and critical analysis of the Data (Privacy and Protection) Bill, 2017.
  4. Do we need a stronger consumer centric data protection law in India like the Customer Online Notification for Stopping Edge – Provider Network Transgressions (CONSENT Act), USA in the aftermath of the Facebook data breach incident?
  5. With all the industry specific regulator (RBI, TRAI, MHoW and etc.) providing various regulations, guidelines and draft policy notes with regards to Data Protection Framework in India, what do you think the outcome will be? Is India formalizing a uniform law for data protection?

Important Dates

▪ Submission Date – The essays must be submitted on or before 11:59 PM on 30 January 2019.

▪ Declaration of the Result on 31 March 2019.  – The winners of the competition shall be notified by email and by declaration of results of the competition on this website.

Details about the prizes, guidelines for submission and other details can be found here.  Intercollegiate-Data Privacy Essay-Competition-NovoJuris

 

Data Localisation: India’s policy framework

The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 (“Bill”) and the Data Protection Committee’s (“Committee”) Report (released on 27 July 2018) contains the framework and the policymakers’ insight on protection of personal data in India. The recent Draft e-commerce policy indicates Government’s thought process on storing data in India. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in April this year mandates that all data generated by the payment systems in India, is to be stored in India. The Ministry of Health and Welfare has published the draft legislation called Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act, to safeguard e-health records and patients’ privacy.  Thus, all these new rules/policies/regulations (collectively referred as “the Data Protection Framework”) indicate a very strong direction that the Government wishes to undertake on data localisation, which helps in enforcing data protection, secure nation’s security and protect its citizen’s data, better control on transmission of data outside the country and more.

We believe initial steps were taken when under the Companies Act, 2013, the maintenance of books of account in electronic form, required copies to be kept in servers physically located in India.

Many questions abound that the Government take fast paced measures in enabling the infrastructure to build data-centres, which in-turn requires land clearance, electricity etc., ability to keep the operational costs for SMEs low, jump-starting initiatives on artificial intelligence, delicate balance to be maintained on surveillance and protection.  On a positive note, this provides entrepreneurial opportunities in building data centres, alternative energy/ solar grids etc.

Data Localisation under the Data Protection Committee’s Report and the Bill

Chapter 6 of Committee’s Report provides compelling arguments on ‘Transfer of Personal Data Outside India’, where the Committee notes Laissez Faire economy of data, i.e. where free flow of data is the norm and to restrict as an exception. It also recognizes that an embargo on data crossing borders as curbing personal liberty of people. The Committee recommended that even if the intended destination is across borders, all data to which Indian laws would apply would need to be stored locally as well. The Central Government may decide that certain data may not be permitted to be taken out of the country and requiring its processing to be done locally. To highlight sections 40 and 41:

  • The Central Government shall determine categories of sensitive personal data which are ‘critical’ in nature having regard to strategic interests and enforcement, this personal data can only be processed in India.
  • Transfer of other non-critical personal data will be allowed subject to one serving copy of it being stored in India.
  • Cross border transfers of personal data, other than critical personal data will be through model contract clauses with the data transferor being directly liable to the data principal.

Mandatory Data Localisation being prescribed under different aspects

Localisation of Payment Systems Data mandated by RBI: Even before the release of the Committee’s Report and the Bill, data localisation was touched upon by RBI in its Notification of 9 April 2018, where it directed all payment system providers to ensure that all data relating to the payment systems are to be stored in systems situated only in India. Under the said notification, the RBI includes ‘full end-to-end transaction details’, ‘payment instructions’ and other information collected, processed, carried, etc. to be within the ambit of data which is required to be stored. The maintained are to be annually audited and reported to RBI.

Localisation of Data under the National E-Commerce PolicyThe Draft National Policy Framework (the “National e-commerce Policy”) concerning the ‘Digital Economy’ seeking to regulate the ‘e-commerce’ sector in India, proposes localisation of several categories of data involved in e-commerce. The intent stated is to create a ‘facilitative eco-system’ to promote India’s digital economy through measures such as, data generated by users in India from sources such as e-commerce platforms, social media, search engines, etc., and all community data collected by Internet of Things (IoT) devices in public spaces are to be stored exclusively in India and sharing of such data within the country is proposed to be regulated.

The localisation of data is not absolute and cross-border flow is allowed for a handful of cases, such as for software and cloud-computing services involving technology related data-flow (which are free of any personal or community implications) and other standard exceptions consistent with the views expressed in the Committee’s report.

Localisation under the draft amendment to Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945

The recent draft amendment proposed to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, for regulating e-pharmacies, makes it clear that e-pharmacies web-portals have to be established in India for conducting its business in India and data generated to be stored locally. The draft rules states that under no means the data generated or mirrored through e-pharmacy portal shall be sent or stored by any means outside India.  

Data Centres in India

For the data to be stored locally, data centres need to be established, regulated and function under the law. The demand for companies to host their data in India stemmed from  security perspective. The major issues with data localisation is not only of cyber security but also jurisdiction. Cloud computing softwares have taken advantage of the economies of scale and an infrastructural architecture across the world. Thus when there is a threat presumed in one part of the world, the algorithm would move the data to another location or even in multiple locations. In addition to this the Cyber Security Report, 2017 released by Telstra have reported that businesses in India were most at risk to cyber security attacks. Further the organisation in India have experienced the highest number of weekly security incidents of all Asian countries surveyed.

The Privacy Bill provides that the Central Government to notify categories of personal data for which the data centres have to be established in India and the Authority to be established under the legislation to be responsible for the compliances.  Further for achieving its goal of facilitating India’s ‘Digital Economy’, the National e-Commerce Policy purports to grant “infrastructure status” to data centres and server farms in India. An infrastructure status by getting listed under the Harmonized Master List of Infrastructure Sub-sectors by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) entails that it’ll be easier to get credit to enter into these operations. This would be accompanied by tax-benefits, custom duties rebates and also 2-year sunset period before localisation becomes mandatory. However, these incentives are only being considered and not promised as of yet.

Cost-Benefit Analysis on Data Localisation

In Chapter 6 of its report, the Committee takes up a detailed analysis of the benefits and repercussions of adopting mandatory data localisation in India. Benefits as stated in the report include:

  • Reduction in the costs of enforcement of India’s own laws because of easier availability of data within its jurisdiction, the cost and time spent on co-ordinating with foreign agencies for access to requisite data being reduced.
  • Overseas transactions of data involve reliance on fibre optic cable networks spread around the world, which are vulnerable to attacks and perhaps localisation of data may reduce this security risk.
  • Having copies of all data collected in India will be a huge boost to the digital infrastructure as the domestic industry will now be able to harness a lot of data. For instance, the report points out that developments in Artificial Intelligence will see a great boost from this.
  • As a matter of national security, the complete localisation of critical data prevents any foreign surveillance of India’s internal affairs.

The report also states that the localisation of data can have its costs too, however it severely downplays them. The report recognizes that to make storing of data mandatory in India, will result in a burden on the domestic enterprises which use foreign infrastructure like cloud computing for running their businesses. The implications include the increased costs of doing business for small and medium businesses, also there may be the danger of monopolization in the digital infrastructure because only a few firms would have the expertise and capital to invest in creating huge data centres in India. However, the Committee states that they are not persuaded by this argument and are confident that the potential of the Indian market will adequately trump the additional cost of setting up the infrastructure.

 Our observations

Digital India and building a thriving Digital Economy in India, building strong competencies in artificial intelligence, protecting nation’s security and data of its citizens are very critical and is now becoming mandatory for India. Establishing a strong domestic infrastructure is a big commitment for the Government, which includes making available vast tracts of land, uninterrupted power supply to the data centres and such other pre-requisites. It is to be seen how India can harvest the long term benefits.

Important reading material:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/draft-ecommerce-policy-champions-india-first/articleshow/65206404.cms

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/as-ministries-argue-draft-ecommerce-policy-lands-with-pmo/articleshow/65495585.cms

https://inc42.com/features/draft-indian-ecommerce-bill-favouring-domestic-players-at-the-cost-of-the-ecosystem/

Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 – An overview with brief analysis

Justice BN Srikrishna Committee (“Committee”) which was formed with an intent to have a highly effective data protection law in India has finally submitted the draft bill to the Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology (“Ministry”) on 27 July 2018. The draft bill namely Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 (“Draft Bill”) is a great expectation particularly after the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) came into force on 25 May 2018. The Draft Bill is introduced at very important juncture, especially after recent judicial orders and judgments in the Aadhar case and in Justice Puttaswamy (Retd.) V. Union of India and Others.

Trust: The Draft Bill introduces concepts of ‘Data Fiduciary’, ‘Data Principal’ and ‘Data Processors’ are akin to concepts of ‘data controller’ and ‘data subjects’ in GDPR. The underpinnings as per Chapter 1, Part C, of the Committee report is of “trust” between a Data Fiduciary and a Data Principal.

data protection

Extra- territorial: Like GDPR, the Draft Bill provides for protection extending beyond India. Section 2(2) states that the legislation shall apply to the processing of personal data by data fiduciaries or data processors not present with in the territory of India, if they process data in connection with business in India, goods or services offered in India, profiling of data principals in India. This may not be applicable for processing anonymised data.

It is interesting to note that State as well as the private and public private sector, come within the ambit of the legislation.

Data: Data under the Draft Bill has been defined broadly to include information, facts, concepts, opinion or instructions whether processed by humans or automated means. It is not just personally identifiable information. The Draft Bill covers issues and matters relating to data protection, collection of data, storage, purpose of collection. Section 8 of the Draft Bill lays out procedure for collection of data, notice / intimation to be provided to the Data Principal (ie., the natural person’s data) while collecting any and all kinds of data.

Disclosures: Under Section 8, there are mandatory disclosures that the Data Fiduciary (ie, any person such as State, juristic entity, individual who determine the purpose and means of processing personal data), has to provide to the Data Principal for collecting the Data. Some of them are (i) the purpose for which the Data is being collected, (ii) categories, (iii) identity and contact information of Data Fiduciary, (iv) the Data Fiduciary will have to compulsorily inform the Data Controller about the right to withdraw consent, (v) Period for which the Personal Data will be retained. It is in this regard that the Data Fiduciary while collecting such Data, shall provide the information in a clear and concise manner, and this would include giving such information to the Data Principals in “multiple languages” where necessary and practicable. The use of multiple languages to provide information would aid such Data Principals who are only familiar with their vernacular language.

Storage: Section 10 has laid down that the Data Fiduciary shall retain the Personal Data only as may be reasonably necessary to satisfy the purpose for which it is processed.  Some of the fintech companies have raised a concern that they use the data collected on regular intervals to keep a track of their customers, even after the purpose is fulfilled, as part of their business offerings itself. Data storage should be read in conjunction with various legislations which provide for data retention, for example, records supporting financial statements of a company has to be retained for 8 years.

Kinds of data:

  • Personal Data;
  • Sensitive Personal Data (“SPD”);
  • Biometric Data;
  • Financial Data;
  • Genetic Data; and
  • Health data.

Section 3 (35) defines religious and political beliefs, caste or tribe, intersex status, transgender status as SPD. Even passwords, financial data and health data fall under SPD. Certain sections of the society have opined that passwords should not be part of SPD and that it is a stretch. What perhaps should be included is a higher level of protection to the Data Principal from instances of profiling, discrimination, and infliction of harm that is identity driven.

Consent: Consent forms the basis for processing Personal Data or SPD. Section 12 details the way to obtain consent from the Data Principal, no later than prior to processing. Shouldn’t it be prior to collection? Collection and processing of SPD has a higher rigour, including explicit consent to be obtained by Data Fiduciary for processing

The consent should be free, informed, specific, clear, and capable of being withdrawn.  It is crucial to note that when the Data Principal withdraws her consent, which was necessary for the performance of the contract to which the Data Principal is a party, then all the legal consequences for the effects of such withdrawal shall be borne by the Data Principal. Wouldn’t this be a burden on the Data Principal? Opinions are also raised that such consent should not be unilaterally withdrawn by the Data Principal and such withdrawal should only be permitted in the context of the Personal Data.

Further, additional grounds have been laid down for the processing of Personal Data which includes: (i) processing for the functions of the State;(ii) processing in compliance with law or any order of the tribunal; (iii) processing which is necessary for prompt action; (iv) processing for the purpose related to employment; and (v) processing for reasonable purpose. Processing of Personal Data for the purpose for reasonable purpose, as mentioned in Section 17, is a bit wide and allows the data privacy authorities to specify the purposes on which such processing can take place. This includes a broad range of activities such as whistle blowing, mergers and acquisitions, recovery of debt, credit scoring, fraud, publicly available personal data, etc. This would need a balance of a very effective right for data erasure, which is not provided in the Draft Bill.

Data Principal Rights: Chapter VI contains the rights to the Data Principal such as (i) Right to confirmation and access; (ii) Right to correction; (iii) Right to Data Portability; and (iv) Right to be forgotten. These are similar to the rights under GDPR. However, the Right to be forgotten which is provided under Section 27 of the Draft Bill only entitles the Data Principal(s) to have the right to restrict or prevent continuous disclosure of Personal Data.  The Right to be forgotten does not include within its ambit the right of data erasure, which allows the Data Principal to erase his personal data as mentioned in GDPR. On one hand, we can interpret that a Data Principal does not have a right to erasure but on the other hand, a Data Fiduciary is mandated to retain the Personal Data only as may be reasonably necessary to satisfy the purpose for which it is processed.

Transparency and accountability measures:  Ample safeguards have been provided to ensure that the Data provided by the Data Principals should be processed in a transparent manner and the Data Fiduciary be held accountable for its action. Chapter VII of the Draft Bill provides for mechanisms to ensure transparency, security safeguards, Data protection impact assessment, Data audits, record keeping, Data protection officer, etc.

Section 32 makes it clear that the Data fiduciary shall notify the Authority of any Personal Data breach where such breach is “likely to cause harm” to any Data Principal. So, the burden of proof seems to be on the Data Fiduciary which is good, so that in a large nation like India where the Data Principal may or may not be aware of her rights, this is helpful. Should the Data Principal have this right as well, along with the Data Fiduciary included in section 32?

Significant Data Fiduciaries: Based on the factors such as volume, sensitivity, turnover, risk of harm, the Data Fiduciaries are classified as Significant Data Fiduciaries. Section 38 obligates data protection impact assessment, record-keeping, data audits and data protection officer on Significant Data Fiduciaries. Some of these obligations are necessary for other Data Fiduciaries as well.

Data localisation: Section 40 mandates that every Data Fiduciary shall store the data on a server or a data centre located in India. Some of them have opined that this may lead to State surveillance. But perhaps, this may help in better control over data breaches or emboldening the steps towards artificial intelligence.

Exceptions: One of the most talked about and discussed section of the Draft Bill is Chapter IX. It relates to many exceptions to the Data Privacy obligations for the State / Government in order to protect the national security of the State.

The argument of surveillance is not new. In the year 2007 Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951 were amended and Rule 419A was inserted in the Rules. Rule 491 A was inserted so as to provide the Government with powers under the Act and the Rules to do surveillance, intercept any message and such other powers so as to safeguard the sovereignty of our country. Then in the years 2009 and 2011 respectively, under the Information Technology Act, 2000, The Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules 2009 and The Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguard for Monitoring and Collecting Traffic Data or Information) Rules, 2011 were added. These set of rules, deal in depth, with how the Government can intercept, monitor and decrypt computer systems, computer networks, internet messages basically any transmission made through Internet to safeguard our country. National security, is of-course one of the primary roles of the Government.

The Draft Bill also provides wide, discretionary and unfettered powers to the Government and the Data Privacy obligations is sub-servient to the Government’s obligations of security of the State and prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution for contravention of law.

Data Protection Authority of India: The independent regulatory body for data protection, has the power to issue directions, conduct inquiry, call for information, and conduct search and seizure, monitoring and enforcement; legal affairs, policy and standard setting; research and awareness; conducting inquiries, grievance handling and adjudication.

While this is “the” legislation for Data Protection, Section 67 envisages situations of concurrent jurisdiction and provides for a consultative approach in resolving such disputes. Therefore, the Authority has to take into considerations other laws and recommendations provided by other regulators, for example, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting or TRAI (for instance the recommendation published by TRAI on Privacy, Security and Ownership of the Data in the Telecom Sector- Dated 16 July, 2018).

Grievance handling and adjudication:  The proposal of having Appellate Tribunal as a special court, is helpful in a speedy disposal of disputes. The proposal perhaps might have come by, since the Courts are already over-burdened. Every Data Fiduciary should have proper procedures and effective mechanisms to address the grievance of Data Principal which should be resolved in an expeditious manner within a period of 30 (thirty) days. It is heartening to see time-bound approach for resolving disputes.

Penalties and remedies

The Draft Bill provides for penalties which are in consonance with GDPR and the quantum of penalty acts as a deterrent to engage in wrongful acts. It should be seen over time if this deterrence is helpful in mitigating occurrences of breaches or would it increase litigation.  Penalties have been imposed on the following activities:

  • Penalty for failure to comply with Data Principal’s requests under chapter VI of the Draft Bill,
  • Penalty for failure to furnish report, information, etc.
  • Penalty for failure to comply with the directions or orders issued by the Authority
  • Penalty for contravention when no separate penalty has been provided.

Further Section 69 (1), also makes the Data Fiduciary liable if it fails to fulfil the obligations relating to taking prompt action related to data breach or undertaking a data protection impact assessment, or conducting a data audit by a significant data fiduciary or failing to register with the authority. The penalty for Data Fiduciary under this sub-section extends to Rs. 5,00,00,000/- (Rupees Five Crore Only) or 2 (two) per cent of the total worldwide turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher.

Section 69 (2) makes the Data Fiduciary liable for a penalty when it contravenes of any of the requirements as mentioned under this sub-section. The penalty may extend to Rs. 15,00,00,000/- (Rupees Fifteen Crore only) or 4 (four) percent of the total worldwide turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher.

Criminal liability: Not only penalties but imprisonment has also been prescribed. For instance, any person who obtains, transfers or sells personal data which is contrary to the provisions of the Draft Bill would be liable for an imprisonment of not exceeding 3 (three) years or shall be liable for a fine which may extend up to Rs 2,00,000/- ( Rupees Two Lakhs Only) or both.  Further any person who obtains, transfers or sells SPD, would be liable for an imprisonment not exceeding 5 (five) years or shall be liable for a fine which may extend up to Rs 3,00,000/- ( Rupees Three Lakhs Only) or both. There is imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 (three) years or a fine which may extend to Rs 2,00,000 (Rupees Two Lakhs Only) or both, when any person re-identifies the Personal Data which has been de-identified by the Data Fiduciary or Data Processor or re-identifies and processes such Personal Data without the consent of the Data Fiduciary or Data Processor.

The Draft Bill has made suitable provisions whereby the company and its directors, officers, as well as Central or State Governments along with its head of departments, officers could be made liable for offences committed under this Draft Bill.

Compensation: The Data Principal also has a right to claim compensation from the Data Fiduciary and Data Processor if it contravenes with any provisions of the Draft Bill. Section 76 states that any compensation awarded or penalty imposed under this Draft Bill would not prevent the award of compensation or imposition of any other penalty or punishment under any law for the time being in force.

We have added our thoughts as we discuss the Draft Bill above. The dynamics of this digital economy are changing rapidly, people are using more and more innovative technologies to disrupt the industry and in all of this, the most crucial element is Data. It is rightly said that data is the new oil of this digital economy and therefore this much anticipated Draft Bill is, though late, a step towards regulating use of Data.

Authors: Mr. Manas Ingle and Mr. Anuj Maharana