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E-tailers meet data panel, show varying flexibility on sharing data with government

Ecommerce companies Amazon, Walmart-owned Flipkart and Snapdeal presented views on possible data localisation, sharing aggregate customer data with the government and potential data portability on Tuesday.

Updated: Nov 13, 2019, 12.27 PM IST
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Ecommerce companies Amazon, Walmart-owned Flipkart and Snapdeal presented views on possible data localization, sharing aggregate customer data with the government and potential data portability on Tuesday, in a series of meetings with the committee tasked with giving recommendations on regulating non-personal data.

The development comes after the panel, headed by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, had noted the views of ride-hailing companies Uber and Ola in October, followed by health and health technology companies.

“Companies are not averse to sharing anonymous data with the government, but different companies have different levels of flexibility,” said a person in the know of the developments, adding that the issue was “extremely complex”.

"While everyone has different levels of comfort, no one has so far come forward and said that they will not share data at all with the government," the person added, requesting not to be named.

The discussions will be followed by many more across various other sectors, another person in the know said.



The eight-member panel is looking at ways to regulate community, anonymised and ecommerce data in India. It is studying various issues related to non-personal data and will make specific suggestions that the central government will consider before regulating such data.

“Today, the government was looking to assess what could be the economic value of ecommerce data and should it be available for a larger purpose. They asked questions on types of non-personal data, whether it can be personalised, should it be stored or processed within India,” said a source who attended the meetings on behalf of one of the ecommerce companies.

Emails to Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal remained unanswered as of press time Tuesday.

LocalCircles, an online citizen engagement platform, also shared its views on the contentious topic.

The platform, which has online communities for both consumers and small businesses, said consumers should be given the right to decide whether they want to share their data with the government and organisations should be directed to share data with the government only in case of a law and order situation.

Sachin Taparia, founder and chairman, LocalCircles said that while some companies may be open to sharing a certain kind of aggregate data, for others aggregate data equals insights and hence may be equivalent to intellectual property.

"We welcome that government may be trying to enable open market access to small companies where large companies may have a monopoly, but it has to be carefully thought out since startups may want that data, but when the same companies become large, they may not want to partake with that data," he said.

LocalCircles did a survey of its members on governments asking private companies for their aggregate data and source code or algorithms any time, and over 50% of the companies said it should be allowed only in a law and order situation or during investigations, he added.

“You can’t just ask companies to share their aggregate data. Consumers need to give their consent on whether they want to share this information with the government. You can’t simply take it,” Taparia said.


Foreign technology companies have so far resisted the idea of storing data locally or sharing them with the government or public, citing either security concerns or infringement of intellectual property rights.

The government believes privately collected digital data could be a necessary requirement for policy making, governance and public service delivery in many areas. India would be the first country to come up with a law to regulate non-personal data.

ET reported last month that the government may await the panel’s report before finalising the personal data Bill, which is expected to be tabled in the upcoming winter session of parliament.

These consultations are closed-door and the panel has not yet decided on whether it would conduct wider public consultations, like how it was done during the drafting of the personal data protection Bill by the Srikrishna Committee.
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