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Policy & Regulation
Justice Srikrishna panel on data protection framework to meet this week
TT Correspondent |  |  24 Jul 2018

The high-level Justice BN Srikrishna committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss the framework for data protection and may also look into Trai's recent recommendations on data privacy, according to panel members.

It remains to be seen as to whether the July 25 meeting, to be held in the national capital, would be the final one, a member said.

Asked if Trai's recommendations would also figure in the deliberations, another member told, "Yes, definitely".

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) last week issued recommendations on data privacy, security and its ownership in the telecom sector. It suggested that even mobile devices, apps and browsers should be subject to similar rules as telecom operators till an overarching data protection law is put in place to safeguard consumer rights.

A person privy to the working of the committee said that Trai's recommendations were not at variance with the white paper being discussed by the members of the panel.

"It is not an issue to beat our heads on, because if someone reads the white paper of the committee and Trai's recommendations they are largely in line," the member added.

Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan had said last week that the Department of Telecom will consider all Trai suggestions related to its domain while others will be looked into by Justice Srikrishna panel which is crafting the overarching data protection law.

The recommendations by the regulator are in tune with the government's existing stance on protecting privacy and data rights of individuals, Sundararajan had said terming the Trai's views as valuable and timely.

"There are two types of recommendations, one which pertain to telecom sector where primarily responsibility is on the Telecom Department...so those recommendations we will be considering within the department. The general recommendation that Trai has given...on entire digital system...will be looked into by the Justice Srikrishna committee," she had said, adding that on its part Department of Telecom will take an "institutional view" of the matter under its purview.

Trai Chairman R S Sharma had recently said that mobile devices and apps are like 'faucets' to the telecom pipe and should be subjected to similar rules as telecom operators till an overarching data protection law is put in place to safeguard consumer rights.

Asserting that Trai has not overstepped its mandate while calling for regulation of all digital entities handling consumer data, Sharma had emphasised that users are the primary owners of their data.

Trai termed entities controlling and processing user data as "mere custodians" recognising individuals as the actual owners of personal information, and has also called for regulation of all digital entities handling consumer data.

In significant recommendations concerning privacy, Trai has argued that firms collecting user data don't have a right over it, and emphasised that consumers' consent is a must for obtaining it.

Describing the existing data protection framework as inadequate, the Trai in its recommendations to DoT has also said that companies should not use meta-data to identify users and should disclose any data breaches.

The government, it has said, must notify policy framework to regulate devices, operating systems, browsers and applications. It had also suggested that users be granted the right to choice, consent and - equally important - to be forgotten, to safeguard privacy.

Trai recommendations have been made to the Telecom Department and also been submitted as 'inputs' to the Justice Srikrishna panel that has been tasked to draft a data protection legislation for the country.

The regulator's recommendations have ignited a debate in the industry. Mobile device industry body, Indian Cellular Association (ICA) has alleged that Trai's recommendation which goes beyond telecom operators is "wholly illegal".

"Trai jumped the gun by seeking to regulate the digital ecosystem without waiting for the general data protection law under consideration by the Justice Srikrishna Committee. This piecemeal approach is dangerous and unproductive," ICA has said.

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has warned that the recommendation may impact mobile app-related businesses and if the same rules are applied, then there is a possibility that India will never be able to build data businesses.

(Reported PTI)

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