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Congress MP Shashi Tharoor introduced the Data Privacy and Protection Bill, 2017, exactly a week after the Srikrishna Committee submitted its draft Data Protection Bill to the IT Ministry. He spoke to The Quint about how his bill differs from that of the government, and how he feels, his version is an improvement upon it.
In a conversation with The Quint, Shashi Tharoor says, “As far as the government’s bill is concerned, there are some deficiencies in it.” He feels that his bill offers some useful pointers which are worth bringing to the government’s and the public’s attention that are not in the government’s bill.
Welcoming IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s announcement of inviting the widest consultations on the bill, Tharoor said he will be sending the minister a copy of his bill with a cover letter pointing to the key differences. “I think we all agree we need a robust data privacy bill, a clear-cut privacy commission and an independent body that will monitor this,” Tharoor said.
How does his bill differ from the Srikrishna Committee’s draft bill?
- Every citizen of India gets ownership of their own data: “My bill actually grants every citizen of India ownership of their own data. Their bill doesn’t. So you don’t actually own your data. It’s out there and de-facto the government can encroach on it, whereas you have ownership rights in my bill.”
- The Aadhaar Question: “The (governmentt) bill doesn’t apply to Aadhaar, mine does. Mine says that Aadhaar has to be fully compliant with data privacy provisions and Aadhaar unfortunately has turned out to be a source of serious data privacy leaks.”
- Tackling cyber snooping: Tharoor says his bill tackles “problems of monitoring, snooping, surveillance, which sadly is becoming an ever present threat, in the cyber world not just in India but anywhere.”
Tharoor advocates for an independent privacy protection commission which will be empowered with the right to monitor even government-authorised or court-authorised surveillance of citizens.
“Who is going to control that if the government has recordings of all those conversations which the citizen does not know are happening? Who has the right to the data so generated?” Tharoor asks while asserting that the privacy commission ought to have the right to supervise this kind of surveillance, to monitor it and say that surveillance can only be conducted for the specific purposes for which it is authorised.
“This is rather important because we do not want the Big Brother phenomenon to be installed in India, where the state’s power is so pervasive that essentially the individuals of this country no longer have a private life,” he said.