Bengaluru: Privacy is dead, long live privacy.
This seems to be the motto that will guide the committee of experts formed to regulate non-personal data and safeguards under India’s proposed Personal Data Protection Bill. The panel, formed by the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), is led by Infosys co-founder S (Kris) Gopalakrishnan.
“Privacy is gone, period. What we need is regulation to ensure that privacy is not exploited. Right to privacy is about right to proper safeguards,” Gopalakrishnan told News18 in an interaction, adding, “We need regulation to ensure data is not misused. There should be a mechanism and that is what is now required. We should ensure that this (misuse) does not happen.”
While privacy in an increasingly wired world is almost non-existent, the perils of how it can get exploited by companies that know everything about you thanks to Artificial Intelligence tools can lead to rather scary possibilities.
Last month, Amazon unveiled a host of new features that give consumers more control over virtual assistant Alexa’s privacy settings following a backlash over reports that human reviewers were sometimes listening to recordings of users’ private conversations.
“There have been many instances of top internet companies being levied hefty fines for violation of privacy. Companies are getting fined or taxed for misusing privacy. It is important for India too to be at the forefront of data protection and privacy because the wealth of the future is the wealth created by data,” said Gopalakrishnan.
California-headquartered Google, for instance, was recently fined USD 57 million by France for privacy violations.
“There is a requirement for the right set of policies at this juncture. If you look at financial services, we already have a huge ecosystem, for better (data) protection. For instance, all you need is a phone number to transfer money. Similarly, we need policies to ensure other data doesn’t get misused,” he said.
Reiterating that data is wealth, Gopalakrishnan said that if one looks at the top five technology companies (by market cap) today – Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft – their market cap comes from their capacity to mine data.
At the same time, there are countries that have used gadgets which seem to pry – like CCTVs – where these devices are used effectively every day – for instance, these security camera systems allow facial identification in a matter of seconds and help in arrests during criminal investigations too.
This fine balance between allowing public authorities to keep track, yet not trod on the foot, is going to be the mainstay of the committee’s final report.