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News Roundup: Need For Personal Data Protection Continues To Be Felt & More

News Roundup: Need For Personal Data Protection Continues To Be Felt & More

This week, the beleaguered public policy head of Facebook India Ankhi Das was quizzed by the Joint Parliamentary Committee for the PDP Bill for nearly two hours

The JPC members quizzed the Facebook representative about the portability of data, advertisement revenue generated from India and the corporate tax being paid by them in India

This week, some observant users noticed that Indian telco Airtel’s privacy policy mentioned that it could collect data related to users’ religious and political affiliation, sexual preferences and more

The long-drawn deliberations for the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, resumed this week with the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) tasked with discussing the bill now inviting the representatives from foreign companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Twitter, among others. 

This week, the beleaguered public policy head of Facebook India Ankhi Das was quizzed by the JPC on the PDP Bill for nearly two hours. The JPC members quizzed the Facebook representative about the portability of data, advertisement revenue generated from India and the corporate tax being paid by them in India. 

The PDP was introduced in the Lok Sabha last year and talks about the formation of a data protection authority, among other useful provisions to ensure that the data of Indian citizens is safeguarded from malicious actors.

Concerns were raised about the bill jeopardising citizens’ right to privacy in the face of “reasonable exceptions”, and hence, the bill was sent to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) for deliberation. The JPC, headed by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament (MP) Meenakshi Lekhi, has been asked to submit its recommendations on the bill by the second week of the winter session of Parliament this year.

Meanwhile, the JPC has been peeved by Amazon’s refusal to appear before the committee. However, the US retail giant, slated to appear before the committee on October 28, has issued a clarification that it will work with the committee. “The inability of our experts to travel from overseas due to travel restriction and depose before the joint parliamentary committee during the ongoing pandemic may have been misconstrued and led to a misunderstanding,” the company said in a statement.

The need for a law on personal data protection continues to be felt, as stray incidents of private entities seemingly overstepping their bounds in data collection continue to leave netizens agitated. 

This week, some observant users noticed that Indian telecommunications firm Airtel’s privacy policy mentioned that the company and authorised third parties could collect store and process the following types of sensitive personal information from their users: genetic data, biometric data, racial or ethnic origin, political opinion, religious and philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, data concerning health, data concerning natural person’s sex life or sexual orientation, password, financial information (details of Bank account, credit card, debit card, or other payment instrument details), physiological information.

Noticing the outrage on social media, Airtel removed the contentious passage from its privacy policy and gave a statement, attributing the inclusion of the passage in the policy to a “clerical error”. 

However, some users on Twitter felt that such incidents only reinforced the immediate need for a holistic law to safeguard the personal data of citizens. 

The need for the PDP bill continues to be felt, even as organisations such as the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) have pointed out the PDP bill in its present form allows far too many “exemptions” for the government and its agencies. It remains to be seen whether the final form of the bill can assuage the concerns of data security and privacy experts. 

Other News 

  1. Having recorded 1 Bn transactions in the first 15 days of this month and with festive season sales kicking off for major ecommerce players in India, UPI could achieve the elusive feat of 2 Bn monthly transactions in October, something it has never achieved since the payments system came into existence in 2016. 
  2. Reliance, through its telecom venture Jio, is reportedly planning to roll out 5G enabled smartphones at an initial price of around INR 5,000, which will be subsequently lowered to around INR 2,500 as production scales up. The cheapest 5G-enabled smartphones currently available in India are priced at around INR 27,000.
  3. Dream Sports, the parent company of fantasy sports platform and IPL 2020’s title sponsor Dream11, has acquired artificial intelligence (AI)-backed fantasy sports startup FanDuniya.
  4. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has filed an ex parte order, instructing Bengaluru-based wealth management firm Minance and its directors, current (Anurag Bhatia) and former, to cease and desist from undertaking any activity in the securities market, pending further inquiry. Further, the company has been asked to stop collective investors’ money and stop the advertising and promotion of its operations through any medium.
  5. Lenders to the Kishore Biyani-led Future Group could see their huge loans, collectively worth around $3 Bn, turn into non-performing assets (NPA) because of a delay in the sale of the company’s assets to Reliance Industries, after Amazon filed a legal suit against Future Group. 

Among the movers and shakers this week, HomeLane has elevated its chief business officer Tanuj Choudhry to the position of cofounder and chief operating officer

From the funding and acquisitions corner, overall, nearly $53 Mn was invested across 23 Indian startups this week.

We’ll be back with next week’s edition of News Roundup.