The Narendra Modi government on Wednesday proposed sending the Personal Data Protection Bill to a joint select committee of both the Houses of Parliament amid Opposition’s claim that citizens’ right of privacy was being compromised, PTI reported.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the proposed committee might bring out a report before the Budget session, which is expected to begin in the last week of January.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology, protested against the move and said the draft law should be referred to his panel. But Prasad pointed out that the standing committee has other bills to scrutinise while the joint panel would have the sole agenda of looking into the draft data protection law.
In July 2018, a committee headed by retired Justice BN Srikrishna had submitted a report to the Centre on suggestions for the data protection law. The 213-page document made recommendations on several topics, including consent, data protection authority, right to recall data, and rights of children. The report said any law enacted on the matter should have jurisdiction over the processing of personal data if it has been used, shared, disclosed, collected or otherwise processed in India. The Union Cabinet approved the bill last week.
In recent months, questions have been raised about data security in India, with reports of journalists, activists and scholars being targeted in cyberattacks.
Last week, human rights organisation Amnesty International said a number of journalists, human rights activists and civil society organisations received a malware through emails sent out between September and October. The malicious program was couched in a PDF file that the targets were requested to download. The malware got installed on the device while the file appeared, giving the attacker full visibility and control of the computer. The hacker could then access the target’s files, camera, take screenshots and record everything being typed on the keyboard.
In a two-week period in May, at least 121 Indians were the target of an attempted security breach using the Pegasus WhatsApp spyware. According to the the government, the personal data of at least 20 WhatsApp users was accessed by unidentified hackers. The spyware was developed by an Israeli company that claims the software was sold to only government agencies. The government, however, has denied its role in the illegal surveillance of the devices while Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee inquiry. The Shashi Tharoor-led panel is investigating the matter.