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Data protection bill: Govt can’t violate privacy of citizens

Amidst apprehensions of giving blanket exemptions to government entities in the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill draft, the Centre has said that the government will not violate the privacy of citizens under the law as it will get access to personal data only in exceptional circumstances like national security, pandemic and natural disasters.

“The government doesn’t want to violate the privacy of citizens. The bill and laws lay out in very clear terms what are the exceptional circumstances under which the government can have access to the personal data of Indian citizens…. national security, pandemic, healthcare, natural disaster,” Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said here while addressing an event.

“These are exceptions. Just like freedom of speech is not absolute and is subject to reasonable restriction, so is the right to data protection,” he said.

The draft Bill has exempted certain entities notified as data fiduciaries by the government from various compliances, including sharing details for the purpose of data collection.

The provisions from which government notified entities will be exempted deal with informing an individual about the purpose for data collection, collection of children’s data, risk assessment around public order, appointment of data auditor, among others.

The bill proposes to exempt government notified data fiduciaries from sharing details of data processing with the data owners under the “Right to Information about personal data”.

Several experts have expressed concern that giving blanket exemptions to the government may pave the way for increased surveillance by the state.

The Minister also said the draft bill has a provision of setting up a Data Protection Board — which will adjudicate matters related to data protection. This will be an independent body and will not have any government officer on the board. The DPB is an adjudication mechanism to adjudicate data breach that has occurred, he said.

The minister further said the National Data Governance Framework has provisions to deal with anonymous data while the scope of the DPDP Bill is limited to personal data protection only. Deccan Herald

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