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Business News/ Opinion / Views/  Consumers can look forward to an era of data privacy
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Consumers can look forward to an era of data privacy

Consumer centric data practices are set to enhance confidence in India’s digital environment

Consumers can also exercise several other rights in relation to their personal data, like their right to know what data is held by a Data Fiduciary (an entity entrusted with it), what it does with it, and who it is shared with. Premium
Consumers can also exercise several other rights in relation to their personal data, like their right to know what data is held by a Data Fiduciary (an entity entrusted with it), what it does with it, and who it is shared with.

Our country’s Digital India mission prompts concerns around privacy and data security. The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023, that was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday, aims to address these pressing issues and it will significantly impact the lives of consumers. While the law is still to go into force, its enactment after likely Rajya Sabha clearance will mark a significant development in the decade-long journey of establishing a data protection regime for India. The version of the Bill that found passage, as per government reports, is understood to be a result of over 20,000 consultations, and it aims to protect personal data, uphold privacy, promote fairness and transparency, and safeguard individual rights.

The Bill seems drafted to usher in a new dawn of privacy in India, which has the potential to alter consumer behaviour and attitudes towards the businesses they patronize. Consumers could be expected to become more vigilant about the collection, processing and storage of their personal data by businesses. While people have rapidly been adopting digital technologies, the Bill now promises them increased control over their personal data by allowing them to provide or withdraw their consent to specific purposes of data processing. This provision ensures that consumers would be fully informed about how their data will be used, offering them greater transparency on the data practices of businesses. As a result, consumers can make more informed decisions about sharing their data, which will foster a sense of trust in the digital landscape.

Consumers can also exercise several other rights in relation to their personal data, like their right to know what data is held by a Data Fiduciary (an entity entrusted with it), what it does with it, and who it is shared with. Consumers can also seek corrections in their details stored, or even for its erasure. These rights are not limited to consumers, but can also be exercised by a person nominated by the person with whom the data is identified in the event of death or incapacity.

The new privacy landscape will also have provisions for raising grievances, so that consumers can seek remedies in case of data breaches or unauthorized processing; and if they are not satisfied, they can approach the Data Protection Board, a new regulatory body which will be set up to give directions and levy fines for non-compliance.

An upcoming era of privacy in India would also mean relief from unsolicited communication, such as spam emails and telemarketing calls, as the annoyance of intrusive marketing messages should reduce once marketers find themselves in breach of the law if they use contact information, the possession of which they cannot show explicit consent for. Direct marketing won’t be the same again. Consumers will benefit from a properly personalized interface with companies reaching out to market their goods and services.

While the Bill can positively impact people’s lives in urban areas, its impact on rural areas could be multifaceted and may differ from its effect on urban India. The government should aim to organize awareness campaigns and educational initiatives to inform rural residents about their data privacy rights and the importance of protecting personal information. Such efforts will empower individuals to make informed decisions about their data.

Non-English-speaking consumers need not worry about a language barrier, as the Bill has provisioned for privacy notices to be in English as well as other languages specified in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, for the sake of equitable privacy protection. This approach is also reinforced by the envisaged Data Protection Board functioning as a ‘digital office’ for rural residents, who typically have limited access to justice, unlike people in urban areas who find it easier to invoke legal guarantees.

While the Bill poses a few implementation challenges for successful application in rural parts, it could have a significant impact on people’s lives once everyone realizes the importance of safeguarding one’s personal data. Remember, at one time scepticism was expressed over our digital transformation of rural India by means of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and the deployment of e-governance. India is now the world leader in such online bank transactions done with phones. Privacy protection would add a valuable dimension to our digital success story. Once in force, the law can serve as a powerful tool to foster digital empowerment and inclusivity throughout the country. For this, consumers from all age group, be it children, youth, middle-agers or senior citizens, should be sensitized to key facets of the Bill that would help them guard their newly enforceable rights. Awareness generation endeavours must span all socio-economic segments of rural as well as urban India, thereby ensuring that the law makes a comprehensive impact.

Data Fiduciaries, particularly in fast-evolving tech spaces, must comply with new legal responsibilities. The new rules should stay in tune with technology’s changing requirements. Just as the Bill went through an extended consultation process, it is now expected to go through the second part of its legislative process in the Rajya Sabha, which should deliver effective safeguards for privacy. The Bill can pave the way for a new era of consumer-centric data practices, enhancing trust and confidence in India’s digital environment and fostering a culture of responsible data handling.

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Published: 07 Aug 2023, 09:24 PM IST
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