Big Data

‘Can we ignore surveillance?’: ‘Save Our Privacy’ calls for tough Indian data protection law

The Srikrishna committee is expected to release its report on what India’s data protection regime should look like soon.

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With the deadline for the government to unveil its data protection law fast approaching, a new video from Save Our Privacy, a coalition of activists, lawyers and concerned citizens, explains why the Indian public will have to push its representatives to draft a Bill that will actually serve the interests of the people.

These efforts have become particularly urgent in part because the government is expected to unveil its data protection law soon. A year ago, a committee under the chairmanship of Justice BN Srikrishna was given the task of putting together a report on what a data protection and privacy regime in India should look like.

Reports have suggested that the Srikrishna findings, including a draft law for data protection, will be unveiled any day now. A leaked copy of the findings, reported in the Caravan, suggests the panel’s draft will call for weakening the Right to Information Act, strengthening the powers of the body that oversees Aadhaar and recommend an overarching law that covers how intelligence agencies and others collect data in India.

“I don’t think it’s so much a question of trusting or mistrusting the government,” says Gautam Bhatia, a Supreme Court lawyer, in the video. “[The Srikrishna panel] has a limited mandate. It only looks at data protection. I don’t know how you can have a law that addresses data protection, but completely ignores surveillance.”

For background, here is the white paper that the committee put out as it began looking into the matter, and since the panel – unlike India’s telecom regulator – has not made public all the representations it has received, Dvara research collected a number of the submissions for what India’s data protection law should look like here. Crucially, the Srikrishna report’s recommendations are not binding on the government, meaning further lobbying – and public campaigns like Save Our Privacy – can also influence what the final law ends up being.

Save the Internet

When telecom companies and Facebook attempted to carve up sections of the internet in India three years ago, a coalition of lawyers, activists and concerned citizens came together to start ‘Save The Internet, a campaign aimed at preserving net neutrality in the country. That campaign, which turned out to be surprisingly popular given the complexity of net neutrality, also ended up cementing links between those who knew that the battle to keep the internet open and safe for all had not been won yet.

Earlier this year, a similar coalition came together to launch Save Our Privacy, a campaign to convince the public and the government that India needs a strong data protection law that upholds the fundamental right to privacy. The group unveiled a draft law that could act as a model for the government, which told the Supreme Court that it would have a data protection law in place by September.

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The draft lays out seven principles, from demanding a privacy commission to the need for surveillance reform, that the campaigners want to see India’s final law incorporating. In addition to this, the coalition also put together several videos, to explain the importance of this subject.

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