Govt Should Make Inputs on Non-Personal Data Public: Panel Member

In what has emerged as a transparency issue, MyGov portal has stated that all feedback “will be kept confidential.”

Tech and Auto
3 min read
The Union Electronics & IT Ministry (MeitY) has come up with a ‘Report by the Committee of Experts on Non-Personal Data Governance Framework’  to regulate and leverage non-personal data.

The government is currently seeking inputs from the public on the Non-Personal Data Governance Framework submitted by an Expert Committee headed by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan on 13 July.

However, in what has emerged as an issue of transparency, the MyGov portal which is accepting comments from the public till 13 August has mandated that the feedback submitted “will be kept confidential” and “no public disclosures” are to be made.

In order to submit comments on the report, the user must declare that, “The feedback submitted here will be kept confidential; no public disclosure will be made at any stage.”

On Wednesday, Parminder Jeet Singh, a member of the expert committee, said at a webinar on Non-Personal Data, “all inputs should be publicly shared.”

Responding to a question by The Quint on whether comments regarding the recommendations of the Committee should be made public, Singh, who is executive director of IT For Change, asserted that, “I am ready to go public with my view that all inputs should be publicly shared.”

Further, Singh acknowledged that “the government has not made it open,” adding that as a member of the Committee, he firmly feels that “everybody who participates in public policy making should do it out in the open.”

The Quint’s question was based on suggestions made by other members of the panel discussion on Wednesday, that comments submitted by the public should be made public for all.

Subhashish Bhadra, Principal Beneficial Technology, Omidyar Network, who was among the panelists at the webinar, had pointed out that the regulatory processes that advanced countries have put in place “is that you are supposed to invite comments and comments are supposed to made public.”

“Seeing which are the startups that have responded to this (report), what were their points of view, will actually enrich the debate,” Bhadra further added.

Same Problem With Personal Data Protection Bill

This decision, to not make comments public, technology policy commentators have highlighted, makes the consultation process less transparent and identical to the secrecy that shrouded the consultation phase of the draft Personal Data Protection Bill submitted by the Expert Committee headed by Justice (retd) BN Srikrishna in July 2018.

The workings of the 10-member Srikrishna Committee, tasked with preparing a draft legislation of India’s data protection bill, had been shrouded in secrecy since its formation on 31 July 2017. Dozens of RTIs seeking information on its formation, meetings and public consultations have been consistently denied.

In fact, on 25 July 2019, in a reply to Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply in Parliament that, “The submissions made to the Committee by any entity are confidential and meant for examination by the Committee.”

Gowda had spoken with The Quint on the subject and expressed his dismay on the continued confidentiality of a process that was public.

“It is a public consultation, so why can’t it be made public ? This is a test case for the government on data sharing. Here is information it has received from the public and hence it can be made public.”
MV Rajeev Gowda, Rajya Sabha MP

The Personal Data Protection Bill is currently tabled in Parliament.

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