Expert Committee to Probe ‘Economic Dimension’ of Community Data

The Committee will headed by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan and study ways of exploiting community data

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The Centre on Friday, 13 September, formed a committee of experts to deliberate on a Data Governance Framework which will study “the economic dimension of data” and “various issues related to non-personal data”.

The Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY), in an official note, stated that a nine-member committee, with Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan as chairman, “will deliberate on a data governance framework” primarily pertaining to a category of data described as community data.

The memo mentioned that this category of data can include “aggregated data, derived data, anonymous data, e-commerce data, AI training data”. It explains that access to and control over various kinds of data “is critical for economic advantage”.

MeitY, in its note, stated that this panel was formed based on the recommendations of the Justice (retd) BN Srikrishna Committee on data protection.

At present, the draft Data Protection Bill, submitted by the Justice Srikrishna Committee over a year ago on 18 July 2018, is yet to be tabled in Parliament.


What is Community Data?

Community data pertains to data sourced from multiple individuals. Such data is akin to a common natural resource, where ownership is difficult to ascertain due to its diffused nature across several individual entities.

The note, quoting the Report on Data Protection submitted by the Justice Srikrishna Committee provides the example of Google Maps which derives information about drivers’ location, speed and itinerary through GPS enabled smartphones of numerous individuals.

“The difference between community data and other large-scale data collection lies in the degree of involvement of the larger community in building the body of data,” the memo says.

The Committee comprises nine members from the private and public sector:

  1. Kris Goapakrishnan: Co-founder Infosys
  2. Additional Secretary/ Joint secretary DPIIT
  3. Debjani Ghosh: President, Nasscom
  4. Neeta Verma: Director General, National Informatics Center
  5. Lalitesh Katragadda: CTO, Avanti Finance
  6. P. Kumaraguru: IIIT Hyderababd
  7. Parminder Jeet Singh: Executive Director, IT For Change

What The Govt Wants From the Committee

MeitY memo states a variety of issues that this committee will be looking into.

  • Community data in understanding public behaviour, preferences to aid in the government’s decision making.
  • Need to recognise the economic dimension of data
  • Come up with a suitable taxonomy of data to help categorise data.
  • Various issues related to non-personal data
  • To make specific suggestions to the Central government on regulation of non-personal data

Srikrishna Committee’s Concerns on Community Data

In its report on data protection, titled ‘A Free and Fair Digital Economy’ the Srikrishna Committee spells out two concerns on the processing of community data.

  • An individual‘s sharing of her personal data (such as current location) may lead to the sharing of similar personal data of her spouse, friends or family, without their consent.
  • Juristic entities make use of Big Data and can identify patterns of behaviour. This can have spill-over effects on the entire community as decisions may be taken on the basis of such patterns. Thus, community data may deserve protection.

When asked if community data should be a part of the personal Data Protection Bill, Justice Srikrishna had said at an event on 24 August, “we had recommended that community data should be available to every one of the citizens. So it should be available to everyone, and everyone should have a right to access it.”

“Not the government, we have not said that the government has a monopoly on that,” he added.

“While there is no indication when the personal Data Protection Bill will be tabled in Parliament. MeITY has moved on looking into the economics of data,” said Srinivas Kodali, an independent researcher.

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