Do you own a car? Do you have a driving licence?
Well, if you do, then there just might be some cause for concern.
The government will be selling your data without you even finding out.
Here's what happened.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has come up with “Bulk Data Sharing Policy and Procedure”. This has implications for our privacy and profiling.
So, what does this mean?
It means that a company that is at least 50% owned by an Indian, can pay Rs 3 crore to get bulk data related to vehicle registration and driving licences for the financial year 2019-20.
According to the Ministry’s VAHAN software system, over 25.5 crore or 255 million vehicle records have been digitised.
So, What Kind of Info Are They Sharing?
Well, 28 different types of info to be precise – this includes
- registration number
- engine number
- model name
- dealer’s name
- horse power
- financer’s name
- insurance company’s name
- insurance validity
- tax paid validity
So, why should this bother you? Let’s break the answer into 4 parts to get a holistic picture of how this policy can even harm us.
1. Privacy Harms
So, we do not own this data even though it pertains to us but at the same time it is our privacy that may be harmed? Exactly. Ye toh wahi baat ho gayi – khaya piya kuch nahi glass toda baarah aana.
So, how exactly can our privacy be harmed? Well, even though the 28 data points does not include our names but the ministry itself allows for names to be searched with license or registration numbers.
This dataset when merged with other datasets can reveal an entire plethora of personal information. Even the ministry’s own circular admits that this is possible.
So, insurance companies, banks, credit companies, marketing agencies can analyse big data to find out a lot more about us such as our income level, spending patterns or personal preferences.
This can be used to jack up our insurance premium or deny us insurance, make it harder to get loans or simply sell it forward.
2. India’s (Non Existent) Data Protection Law
Oh wait, we do not have a data protection law yet.
India is one of the few major democracies in the world without a national privacy and data protection framework. Therefore, there is no law to govern how our data is shared, stored, processed or protected.
This brings us to our third point.
3. Who Owns This Data?
As of now there is no clarity on it. The draft Data Protection Bill that is yet to be tabled in Parliament says nothing about data ownership.
So, in this scenario, do we own the data about our vehicle and our driving licence? Or does the government own it?
4. The Big Picture: Our Data For ‘Country Economy Building’
While we may not be defined as “owners” of data about our own selves, the draft Data Protection Bill specified that our consent is necessary for processing any data. Well, does the ministry seek our consent to share our data? NOPE.
The circular in fact says, this sale of OUR data will “benefit the country economy” and “support the transport and automobile industry”.
This language, very much like the draft Data Protection Bill itself, implies that data, like oil or land falls under eminent domain – where our data is needed by the state as part of a national project to help the country’s economy.
And for that if we must forgo our privacy and consent then so be it.