Protecting Digital Privacy: A Closer Look at India’s Digital Personal Data Protection Bill

The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2023 has emerged as a significant legislative milestone in a nation where the digital landscape is rapidly evolving. On August 9, 2023, the Parliament approved the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2023.

This Bill will become the country’s first law to safeguard individual privacy in the digital data and technology age. IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw expressed that the Bill has been made technology-agnostic so that data concepts that are still developing can be included without further amendments.

A Shift Towards Privacy

The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill marks a crucial shift towards recognizing and preserving individual privacy rights within the digital realm. It aims to strike a balance between harnessing the potential of personal data for lawful purposes while respecting an individual’s right to protect their digital data. The Bill applies not only to digital data collected within India’s borders but also to data processed outside if it pertains to activities offering goods or services within India.

At the Bill’s core is the “Data Principal,” referring to the individual to whom the personal data pertains. This individual-centric approach will ensure that the rights and interests of citizens take precedence. The Bill introduces rights for Data Principals, including the right to access their data, correct inaccuracies and seek grievance redressal.

The Bill acknowledges that personal data can only be processed for specific “legitimate uses” defined under its provisions. It highlights the importance of consent and purpose limitation – personal data can be processed only for the specified purpose for which it was provided. Underscoring the salient features of the Bill, the language is also kept very simple so that even an ordinary person can understand it.

Accountability and Oversight

The creation of the Data Protection Board of India is a crucial feature of the Bill. It ensures that both private and government entities are held accountable for the way they handle personal data.

“The board will comprise experts who understand the data field and the board is independent by law. Above this board, an appeal can be made before Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) and the Supreme Court,” Vaishnaw said.

The Bill also grants individuals the right to approach the board in the event of data breaches or violations. Penalties are also provided for various offences, such as non-fulfillment of obligations for children up to INR 200 crores and for failure to take security measures to prevent data breaches, up to INR 250 crores. The Bill requires that the request for consent be accompanied or preceded by a notice to inform the purpose for which the personal data is proposed to be processed.

Challenges and Controversies

While the Bill aims to enhance privacy and security, concerns about its potential misuse have arisen. Phrases like “interest of sovereignty and integrity of India” and “security of the State” have raised apprehensions among privacy activists. Additionally, the absence of a mandatory data deletion requirement after processing for specific purposes has triggered debates.

In the Lok Sabha, responding to the opposition, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said, “If there is a natural disaster or earthquake, should we worry about consent notices or focus on people’s safety? If the police are pursuing an offender somewhere, will they concern themselves with forms, or will there be action?” he asked.

Opposing the Bill, MP Syed Imtiaz Jaleel said, “The Bill raises serious questions, one of them being the excessive centralization of power. The Union government can exempt any government or private-sector entity from the application of the provisions of the law merely by issuing a notification.”

The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill arrives at a critical juncture when digitalization becomes increasingly omnipresent. Although the bill, promises to secure digital future by empowering individuals it is still unclear what will be the after effects of the bill upon execution.

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Andrew s

Andrew has been in the online publishing industry. After receiving his degree in professional journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, he contributed to multiple websites as a freelance writer and feature editor. Mostly, Andrew tackles controversies and theories that lead to a specific conclusion that either debunk or justify a particular claim. Further, Andrew participates in social developments that aim to simplify every individual's way of life and fight for peace. He is the new Editor-in-Chief of Pressroom Today.

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