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Industry wants careful drafting of regulation on non-personal data

Firms cheer the formation of a separate panel, but worries abound about restrictions.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Sep 16, 2019, 10.43 AM IST
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Prof. V Kamakoti of IIT-Madras said companies were holding a mammoth amount of data and if these were made accessible, it could change the face of data-driven research.
NEW DELHI: The industry has welcomed the formation of a committee to look into the issue of non-personal data , but cautioned that such a policy should be carefully crafted. Concerns about the possibility of non-personal data being clubbed with the Bill on personal data protection had cropped up after the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) asked questions on the contours of a policy to govern community, anonymised and ecommerce data held by companies such as Uber, Google and Amazon.

“At least the formation of the committee probably indicates that nonpersonal data will be outside the purview of the personal data protection Bill and there will be wide consultations before a policy is formed. If that’s the case, we welcome it,” Data Security Council of India CEO Rama Vedashree said.

The personal data protection Bill should not be expanded to include non-personal data and the government should not make it mandatory for companies to share their data, Vedashree said. Instead, incentives should be created for firms to share it on a voluntary basis, she suggested, adding: “Government can also promote Open Data”. On Friday, MeitY set up a committee, headed by Infosys cofounder S Gopalakrishnan, to discuss the issue of non-personal data. “Companies such as Google or Amazon have invested hugely into setting up operations and servers to collect this information, so the policy the government is framing to acquire this data from them has to be reasonable and rational and has to respect economic principles,” said Rahul Matthan, cofounder of law firm Trilegal.

The government has a lot of touch points with people through government data collection agencies and community data collected through those networks can be easily categorised and analysed for public good, he said. Commenting on the issue of community data, IT industry body Nasscom had said the policy should take into account the existing National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy, 2012, according to which a large amount of non-sensitive data was generated by the government using public funds but which remained “inaccessible”. There is a need for improving the quality of community data, making it more current and accessible, it had suggested.

Prof. V Kamakoti of IIT-Madras said companies were holding a mammoth amount of data and if these were made accessible, it could change the face of data-driven research. However, the legal implications need to be understood and debated .

“Kris (Gopalakrishnan) is the perfect leader for this. He is intimately familiar with medical research and health-use cases. This area has to drive the formulation of thoughtful policy. The stakes are high,” said Sharad Sharma of software think tank iSPIRT.

Ashish Agarwal, the head policy advocacy at Nasscom, said apart from leading to wide consultation on the issue, as was the demand, "setting up this committee brings some national-level cohesive thinking around the issue of non-personal data, so far we have seen segmented thinking on the topic, so this cohesive approach of the government is certainly a very good measure."
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