Nilekani voices concern over ‘data colonisation’ by global tech giants

Our Bureau Bengaluru | Updated on January 09, 2018

Nandan Nilekani (left), former Chairman, UIDAI , with Naushad Forbes, Co-Chairman, Forbes Marshall, at the CK Prahalad Memorial Lecture organised by CII Karnataka in Bengaluru on Tuesday - Photo: GRN SOMASHEKAR

Indian regulators urged to set right tech asymmetry

Former Aadhaar Chairman Nandan Nilekani has asked regulatory bodies such as RBI, SEBI, and TRAI to collaborate through technology and address the country’s economic issues arising out of information asymmetry.

Addressing a gathering at the 6th CII CK Prahalad Memorial Lecture, Nilekani pointed out that it is important for the country that all its five regulators have access to one another’s information. The regulators are RBI, SEBI, IRDA, TRAI and Pension Fund Authority.

‘No financial burden’

“This effort does not involve any additional money but it is about intent (of the authorities),” said Nilekani, adding that ‘Big Data’ tech is no longer mumbo jumbo. It can create an investment cycle and that can lead to growth and jobs.

Further, the technology infrastructure, through Aadhaar linkages, GST Network and India Stack are in place for regulators to access each other's information which can help the RBI to take a real-time look at several economic parameters.

Additionally, Nilekani has proposed that any company doing business in India should be obliged to give data back to the users who have contributed to it. This development assumes significance in India, at a time when the country has witnessed a spate of data leaks.

‘Data colonisation’

TRAI has accused Apple of engaging in “data colonisation” practice in India and being “anti-consumer” by not allowing customers to pass on details about pesky calls and unwanted messages to authorities as well as their mobile operators.

All this will be looked into by the Supreme Court which has constituted a nine-judge bench to ascertain whether privacy is a fundamental right of an Indian citizen as well as the validity of Aadhaar in the light of privacy.

Instead of data being sold to the user, who is actually creating the data, the person should be empowered to decide what to do with the data, a thought which has forced regulators in Europe to draft new privacy laws. “Currently, there is nothing that a user knows regarding what is happening to their data and this information needs to be given back to people,” he said.

Monopoly concerns

The issues around data is assuming significance as India is increasingly embracing technology – from making daily payments to filing tax returns. While global multinational tech giants offer services such as email, chat or search for free, they collect vast amounts of data, which has raised privacy concerns about what these companies can do with this information.

“The world is waking up to monopoly concerns over this data remaining in the hands of a few,” said Nilekani. This does raise a possibility of a Europe-like regulatory environment in India.

Published on August 08, 2017

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