The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019: A Crucial Step Towards India’s Data Privacy

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

Article

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In the era of rapid digitization, data has indeed become the new oil, underpinning various sectors of the economy. However, with the growth of data usage, there’s an imminent need to protect personal data. Acknowledging this, India introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB), 2019. In this blog post, we will dissect the Bill’s primary features, its implications, and the potential challenges it may face.

A New Age of Data Protection

The PDPB was introduced in the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on December 11, 2019, based on the recommendations of the Justice B. N. Srikrishna Committee. The primary purpose of the Bill is to protect individuals’ fundamental rights concerning their personal data and establish a Data Protection Authority (DPA).

Key Provisions of the Bill

Defining Data and Data Fiduciaries

The PDPB classifies data into personal data, sensitive personal data, and critical personal data. ‘Data fiduciaries’ are entities or individuals who decide the means and purpose of processing personal data. They are expected to process data in a fair and reasonable manner, maintaining the privacy of the data principal (the individual whose data is being processed).

The Bill states that personal data can only be processed by obtaining the consent of the data principal, except in circumstances such as state function, legal proceedings, or medical emergencies. For sensitive and critical personal data, the consent needs to be explicit.

Rights of the Data Principal

The data principal has been granted several rights under the Bill, such as the right to access and correct their data, the right to data portability, and the right to be forgotten.

Data Protection Authority

The Bill proposes the establishment of a DPA to protect individuals’ interests, prevent misuse of personal data, and ensure compliance with the Bill. The DPA will also have the power to levy penalties for violations.

Implications and Benefits

The PDPB is a significant step towards establishing a robust data protection framework in India. It enhances consumer trust, brings transparency to data processing, and potentially encourages international businesses by aligning India’s data protection standards with global norms.

Challenges Ahead

Defining “Reasonable Purposes”

The Bill allows data processing for “reasonable purposes,” but what constitutes “reasonable” is ambiguous. This ambiguity could potentially be exploited to justify intrusive data practices.

Exemption to Government Agencies

The government can exempt any of its agencies from the Bill’s provisions on grounds of national security, public order, and friendly relations with foreign states. Critics argue that this could lead to misuse of personal data by government agencies.

Data Localization

The Bill mandates storing a copy of all personal data on servers within India and demands explicit consent for data transfer outside India. Critics argue that this could affect businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, which might not have the resources for such localization.

Conclusion

The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 represents a significant leap towards establishing a comprehensive data protection framework in India. While the Bill isn’t without its challenges, it nonetheless serves as a foundation upon which future legislation can build. Balancing personal data protection with freedom of businesses and government functions will be the key to its effective implementation. As we await the Bill’s enactment, it’s clear that it will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping India’s digital future.