India is among the list of countries where government surveillance has become a major concern from a data privacy perspective, American market research and advisory company Forrester Researcher said in a report.

According to the 2019 Forrester Global Map of Privacy Rights and Regulations: “Regulations that allow governments to access personal data of citizens are still undermining the overall privacy protections that certain countries offer their citizens.”

India has been named as a country with minimal restrictions in terms of data privacy and protection where government surveillance is a matter of caution alongside countries with high-level of government surveillance, such as China.

“It (government surveillance) is a worldwide phenomenon that cuts across geographies, economic development, societal well-being, and institutional design, with alarming levels of government surveillance in countries such as Austria, Colombia, India, Kuwait and the UK,” the report said.

Lack of constitutional provisions that enable monitoring of government activity could be one of the primary reasons for the high level of government surveillance in India, industry experts say.

“While the ‘right to privacy’ is constitutionally recognised, there are very few laws and regulations in India which govern government surveillance,” Amber Sinha, Senior Program Manager at the Center for Internet and Society and a data privacy expert, told BusinessLine .

“As a result, there is very little legislative oversight and there is little judicial decision-making around surveillance. So that is one of the reasons why the report would have flagged it as such. So what is needed sorely are some laws around surveillance reform in India,” Sinha added.

Pervasive practices

The surveillance practices may prove to be pervasive and not in line with the enforced data privacy laws, thus affecting data security of citizens.

‘“Suspicion of surveillance may also negatively impact business operations and thus profitability,” the report added.

“The Personal Data Protection Bill has a couple of provisions that deal with the issue of government surveillance. But a lot of regulations and procedures need to be built into it on how these procedures are to be followed.”

(The writer is interning with BusinessLine)