India's privacy bill seeks access to users' data from companies | Proposals include government powers to request user data to help forge policies.

India's privacy bill seeks access to users' data from companies

India's privacy bill seeks access to users' data from companies

India's privacy bill seeks access to users' data from companies

India's privacy bill seeks access to users' data from companies

India's privacy bill seeks access to users' data from companies

India's privacy bill seeks access to users' data from companies
India's privacy bill seeks access to users' data from companies
  • By: itnews.com.au
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Changes to India's privacy bill could cause trouble for Facebook , Google and others as proposals include government powers to request user data to help forge policies.

The Personal Data Protection Bill, circulated to parliament members on Tuesday and reviewed by Reuters, was keenly awaited by top technology companies as it could affect the way they process, store and transfer Indian consumers' data.

The bill's latest version introduces a provision empowering the government to ask a company to provide anonymized personal data, as well as other non-personal data, to help target the delivery of government services or formulate policies.

The bill defines "personal data" as information that can help identify a person and has characteristics, traits and any other features of a person's identity. Any other data is non-personal, the bill said, without elaborating.

"For companies, even non-personal data is wealth and such a legal provision is likely to cause panic at big technology companies," said Supratim Chakraborty, a partner specializing in data privacy at Indian law firm Khaitan & Co.

Defending the move, a senior Indian government official said such data was "also wealth for the society", citing an example that data from a company like ride-hailing business Uber could help the government understand public transport constraints and further develop the local train network.

"The bill doesn't say this data will need to be given free ... subsequent rules will offer clarity on payment for such data," the official added.

The bill will be presented in parliament soon, but won't be passed in the current session that concludes on Dec. 13 as a panel will likely review it further, Reuters reported last week.

The bill also said large social media platforms should be required to offer a mechanism for users to prove their identities and display a verification sign publicly, a move that would raise a host of technical issues for companies including Facebook, WhatsApp and Chinese app TikTok.

"Sensitive personal data", which includes financial and biometric data, could be transferred outside India for processing, but must be stored locally, the bill said.

The privacy bill is part of the India's broader efforts to tightly control the flow of data and is seen helping government agencies for investigations. US firms have lobbied against such data rules around the world, fearing increased compliance costs.

On Tuesday, internet company Mozilla Corp. said the bill's exceptions for government to use data and proposed verification of social media users represented "new, significant threats to Indians' privacy".

"If Indians are to be truly protected, it is urgent that the parliament reviews and addresses these dangerous provisions before they become law."

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Mark Potter)

US senators threaten Facebook, Apple with encryption regulation

US senators threaten Facebook, Apple with encryption regulation

US senators grilled Apple Inc and Facebook Inc executives over their encryption practices on Tuesday and threatened to regulate the technology unless the companies make encrypted user data accessible to law enforcement.

At a US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Democrats and Republicans presented a rare united front as they invoked child abuse and mass shooting cases in which encryption has blocked access to key evidence and stymied investigations.

"You're going to find a way to do this or we're going to go do it for you," said Senator Lindsey Graham. "We're not going to live in a world where a bunch of child abusers have a safe haven to practice their craft. Period. End of discussion."

Facebook has been wrestling with multiple governments since announcing its plan to extend end-to-end encryption across its messaging services earlier this year. Its WhatsApp messaging app is already encrypted.

In October, US Attorney General William Barr and law enforcement chiefs of the United Kingdom and Australia called on the world's biggest social network not to proceed with its plan unless law enforcement officials are given backdoor access.

Facebook rejected that call in a letter signed by WhatsApp head Will Cathcart and Messenger head Stan Chudnovsky which it released along with the company's written testimony.

"The 'backdoor' access you are demanding for law enforcement would be a gift to criminals, hackers and repressive regimes," they wrote. "That is not something we are prepared to do."

Apple weathered a legal fight over encryption in 2016, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation sought access to an iPhone owned by a slain sympathizer of Islamic State in San Bernardino, California, who had murdered county employees.

That stand helped bolster the company's reputation for protecting user privacy, while Facebook has been mired in a series of scandals in recent years over its handling of personal data.

In their testimony, Facebook's messaging privacy chief Jay Sullivan traded barbs with Apple privacy head Erik Neuenschwander, each suggesting lawmakers focus their scrutiny on the other company's business.

Sullivan said repeatedly that Facebook does not build devices or operating systems, and suggested the company was open to "on-device scanning" proposals that would automatically identify matches for illegal content.

"We don't have forums for strangers to contact each other ... and our business doesn't have us scanning material of our users to build profiles of them," said Neuenschwander.

(Reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Richard Chang)

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