He sees you when you're sleeping, He knows when you're awake, He gets your personal data and sells it for your own sake. #DystopiaBells

Joanne D'Cunha


  • Background: While the Draft Personal Data Protection Bill marinates with new and improved changes privy to no one, an issue of transparency that has consistently been raised, the growing risks to the data of Indian citizens only continues to increase in number.
  • Immediate need for a Data Protection Framework: We wrote a representation to the Hon'ble Minister for Electronics and Information Technology asking on the status of the much awaited Data Protection Bill. More importantly what it will look like and why it should be made public prior to it's introduction in parliament.
  • Thank you parliamentarians: We also wrote to close to ten parliamentarians for not only opposing the Aadhaar Amendment Bill but asking for a rights focused data protection law.

Running out of time but never out of slime - new and improved ways to threaten your personal data

With great power, comes great responsibility. The stream of new technologies continuous to remind us of the various ways we are currently left vulnerable only solidifying our need for a data protection law.

In light of this, we wrote to Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, Shri. Ravi Shankar Prasad on the immediate need for a data protection law (Read here for more).

Right now India is under a privacy onslaught. This comes from several government policies and programs. Here are a few select ones:

1. Facial Recognition: On June 28, 2019, the NCRB released a call for tender, inviting bidders to provide Automated Facial Recognition Systems (AFRS) with the intention of creating a repository of “crime and criminal facial data”. The RFP for AFRS is alarming; it furthers critical privacy violations large-scale surveillance and also discriminatory profiling.

2. CCTV: Delhi has recently had the “privilege” of installing over 1.4 lakh CCTV all over the city with the intention of providing security to women. The project is itself illegal as it has no statutory basis to substantiate the violation of privacy under Puttaswamy v. Union of India. In addition, there is an absolute lack of transparency in the manner in which this project is advancing but questions of the protection of the storage, accessibility and security of such footage continues to remain answered.

3. Social media linking: To add to the dynamic nature of our current concerns, an order was released by the Indian Higher Education Secretary asking students to link their social media accounts to all higher education institutes (HEI) as well as the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (HRD) without regard for the privacy of students and its impact on their freedom of speech and expression.

4. National Economic Survey: While an entire chapter in the survey has been dedicated to purely data, the approach is extremely concerning. Following the narrative set by the Draft National Economic Policy, it treats data as a public good which is at the disposal of the Government to be used in a manner it deems fit. This understanding is fundamentally incorrect as it does not recognise that ownership should remain in the hands of an individual.

The Draft Personal Data Bill has still not made its way to Parliament. In addition, there is no transparency on the actual content of the Bill in its current form (Read our post on this). As we emphasised in the representation, India appears to be settling in quite well within the definition of a digital dystopia.

It is with these chilling concerns that we reach out to the Ministry on the immediate need for the Data Protection framework, one that is fully rights respecting rather than a mere after-thought. The current Draft Personal Data Protection Bill should maintain its earlier standard and its framework needs to be disclosed in order to ensure that the approach to data as is in proposals such as the Draft National E-Commerce Policy and the National Economic Survey do not make individuals data a “public good” relinquishing the individual of control of their own data. We have requested that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology proactively engage and ensure the essence of a data protection law as is in several other jurisdictions is maintained.

We will continue to engage with all forms of Government in ensuring India receives a data protection legislation that puts it citizens first!

Important documents

  • Representation to Shri. Ravi Shankar Prasad dated 23.07.2019 (link)

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