September 27, 2022

India’s government has withdrawn its long-awaited Privacy Bill, which drew scrutiny from several privacy advocates and tech giants who feared the legislation could limit how sensitive information is handled by giving the government broad powers to access it .

The move comes as a surprise as lawmakers had recently hinted that the bill, introduced in 2019, could see the “light of the day” fairly soon. New Delhi received dozens of amendments and recommendations from a parliamentary committee, which includes lawmakers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, that “identified many issues that were relevant but beyond the scope of a modern digital privacy law.” life,” said India’s junior IT minister Rajeev. Chandrasekhar.

The government will now work on a “comprehensive legal framework” and present a new bill, he added.

The Privacy Bill sought to empower Indian citizens with rights related to their data. India, the world’s second-largest Internet market, has seen an explosion of personal data over the past decade as hundreds of citizens went online for the first time and began consuming dozens of apps. However, there has been uncertainty about how much power individuals, private companies and government agencies have over it.

“The Privacy Bill 2019 was discussed in great detail by the Joint Committee of the House, 81 amendments were proposed and 12 recommendations were made for a comprehensive legal framework for the digital ecosystem. Taking into account the KKE report, a comprehensive legal framework is being developed. Therefore, under these circumstances, withdrawal is recommended. The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019′ and introduces a new bill that fits into the comprehensive legal framework,” India’s IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said in a written statement on Wednesday.

The bill drew criticism from many industry stakeholders. The New Delhi-based privacy advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation said the bill “provides broad exemptions to government departments, prioritizes the interests of large corporations, and fails to adequately respect your fundamental right to privacy.”

Meta, Google and Amazon were some of the companies that had expressed concerns on some of the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the proposed Bill.

The bill also stipulated that companies can only store certain categories of “sensitive” and “critical” data, including financial, health and biometric information in India.

“I hope the bill will not be defeated completely, given all the work that has gone into it. Completely hacking the account will create a privacy gap. Nobody wants this,” Nikhil Pahwa, the editor of MediaNama, which covers politics and media, said in a series of tweets.

“The new bill must be put to public consultation. The government needs to realize that civil society and wider industry involvement helps improve laws and regulations. The JPC did not include many key civil society actors. The government has already made a mess with IT Rules 2021 and CERT-in directives. It has to be sensible with regulations, otherwise this will hurt India’s digital future.”

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