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Indian govt forms committee to recommend governance norms for non-personal data, Infosys’ Gopalakrishnan to head it

Graphic representing community data

Update: September 16, 12:36 pm

3 key points raised by chairperson of the Committee of Expert looking into non-personal data, Kris Gopalakrishnan, in an interview with Economic Times:
  1. Public benefits of data sharing: “If there is a way to populate a common database for, say to find out the incidence rate of communicable diseases in Chennai and populate this to reflect incidence across the country from data sets from other places… then proactively we can take action.”
  2. Concrete policies around data privacy will aid data-driven services: “I think our concept of privacy will go through a change because we are voluntarily disclosing whom we are because we want some service … In the physical world, property rights have been clearly established. I think, over time, property rights will be clearly established in the online world.”
  3. Data as an economic asset has no national boundaries: “Unfortunately or fortunately, data, … knows no national boundaries. It can be transmitted without friction. How does a nation create value on the data of its citizens? How does a nation protect the data of its citizens? These are the questions everyone is grappling with.”

For more, read the interview on Economic Times.

Original article, published on September 14, 8:37 am:

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) has formed a new Committee of Experts to focus on non-personal data, and to come up with a related data governance framework. Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan will head the committee, as per a MeitY memo dated September 13, 2019 (attached below).

Why was this formed? To focus on community and non-personal data. The draft Personal Data Protection Bill only dealt with personal data. The Srikrishna Committee which presented the PDP Bill, in its report, A Free and Fair Digital Economy: Protecting Privacy, Empowering Indians“, recommended that the government come up with a law to protect community data where a community is identifiable.

Who are the members of this new committee? The members of the committee (listed below) can co-opt other members for specific inputs.

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  1. Kris Gopalakrishnan, Infosys Co-Founder (Chairperson)
  2. Additional Secretary/Joint Secretary, DPIIT
  3. Debjani Ghosh, NASSCOM President
  4. Neeta Verma, National Informatics Centre, DG
  5. Lalitesh Katragadda, Avanti Finance, CTO
  6. Dr Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, IIIT Hyderabad
  7. Parminder Jeet Singh, IT for Change
  8. Gopalakrishnan S., MeitY, Joint Secretary (Member Convenor)

What is community data? According to the draft National E-Commerce Policy, community data includes “data collected by IoT devices installed in public spaces like traffic signals or automated entry gates”. It has been treated as a public good and an economic asset:

“Suitable framework will be developed for sharing of community data that serves larger public interest (subject to addressing privacy-related issues) with start-ups and firms. The larger public interest or public good is an evolving concept. The implementation of this shall be undertaken by a ‘data authority’ to be established for this purpose.”

Does community data include privately collected data? Yes. Both the draft National E-Commerce Policy and the Srikrishana Report consider data such as that gleaned by Google Maps and Uber community data. In fact, MeitY’s memo considers such data crucial for policy making, governance and public service delivery. Community data may in future also include data collected by platforms. The MeitY memo compares platform economy data to a community or public resource.

How is community data different from personal data? As per the Srikrishna Committee Report individuals have less control over community data as they may naot know what their data can reveal when aggregated with other data points. It had also compared community data to a natural resource over which ascertaining ownership is difficult.

“It is relevant for understanding public behaviour, preferences and making decisions for the benefit of the community. … The difference between community data and other large-scale data collection lies in the degree of involvement of the larger community in building the body of data.”

Update: September 16, 12:36 pm. The original article article was published on September 14, 8:37 am.

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