From the Viewsroom

Alien fears

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on February 24, 2019 Published on February 24, 2019

On data storage requirements are we barking up the wrong tree?

It is refreshing to see that the e-commerce draft the Centre released on Saturday with the motto ‘India’s data for India’s development’ discusses in stronger terms the need to protect people’s privacy and data, much along the lines of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). That said, one must take its concerns over keeping data in foreign locations with a pinch of salt. No doubt, abuse of personal data must be countered and controlled by all means, but the report’s hastiness to paint servers or companies holding our data abroad in bad light seems overstretched and ignores some basic tenets of data protection.

First off, it is not always about where our data is held, but ‘who’ exactly holds that. The intent of the company that has access to our personal data is what should be problematised rather than where it is kept. In many cases, a stronger server from a host with proven credentials fares much better than a server with a weaker security apparatus but held locally in India. Data is a different commodity. Its dynamics, functions and uses are different. Hence, while dealing with the business of data, we must not apply the yardsticks of, say, 20th century manufacturing or services industries, to understand, regulate and promote it. The fearmongering over foreign data storage locations stems from such misunderstanding.

Several studies, papers from data companies, web application providers and even from cyber security experts have pointed out that a hurried move towards data localisation in India can endanger security of users and the competitiveness of Indian industry, especially its burgeoning e-commerce sector, and can even impact economic growth in the longer term. When the Srikrishna Committee report on data protection was submitted to the government last year, prominent players, including Mozilla, had expressed concerns over India’s rush towards data localisation. The general consensus then was India was not ready to roll out such a mandate.

Further, the world of data, computing, or the internet rather, is not exactly driven by a boundary. That might sound too philosophical to business, trade and policy, but the very global character of data demands solutions that anchor on global best practices, factors such as efficiency of data management and security rather than provinciality blues.

Published on February 24, 2019

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