There is a great need for awareness generation and capacity building of consumers on data protection and privacy issues: Dr. Govind Sharma, Advisor, Chief Minister of Rajasthan.

Friday, 19 July 2019 | Jaipur

CUTS International, a global policy research and advocacy group, organised a two-day consumer awareness workshop on Data Protection and Privacy & Impact of Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 (PDPB). The panel discussion on ‘India’s privacy protection policy: Will the consumers feel empowered or enraged?’ marked the closing of the workshop. The workshop intended to engage with key local stakeholders to build their capacity to further engage with citizens and policy makers productively on the issues of privacy and data protection, and also help consumers’ put forth their perspective.

Several stakeholders participated in the discussion, including policy influencers, senior bureaucrats, industry representatives, academia, civil society, think tanks, media, among others. Bhavana Sharma, Advisor, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chaired the panel discussion. She pointed out that for privacy policies to be easily comprehendible by the consumers, it needs to be presented in a readily intelligible format.

Dr. Ajay Data, Founder and CEO, Data XGen Technologies, also the first Indian elected as a council member of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) remarked that the PDPB has given a miss to the education fund that would ensure mass awareness. He also emphasized that start-ups and small businesses must be protected from unnecessary costs to ensure growth and innovation of the MSME sector in the digital ecosystem.

Prasanna, a lawyer and constitutional expert pointed that data is not a public good, it is a private right. Further, he mentioned that the state needs to be better than the private entities, and it needs to build itself into a ‘model data collector’.

Shagufta Gupta, Director of CUTS Centre for Competition, Investment & Economic Regulation, asserted that the responsibility of safeguarding data and privacy should not be forwarded to the consumers. Further, Srikanth Lakshmanan, Founder, CashlessConsumer, cautioned the consumers to be aware of over consenting while engaging with digital financial services. Additionally, the process of consent needs to be made more meaningful and the grounds for processing should be both legal and valid, asserted Rishabh Bailey, Legal Researcher and Consultant, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. He further added that there is a need to shift focus from consent to accountability on the entities collecting, sharing, and processing data.

Beni Chugh, Research Associate, Dvara Research, stated that the consumers should be conscience in sharing their data, as bits and pieces of information can be clubbed together from various digital platforms, to create and reveal your identity.

The workshop highlighted the issues related to data leaks, data breaches, and surveillance. CUTS also presented findings of their user perception survey covering 2,160 respondents across six states in India on usage of digital technologies by consumers. The consumers expect service providers to use consumer data only for the purposes it was collected, uphold privacy and practice anonymization. Reputation is key in providing confidence to consumers for sharing their data. Thus, any unfair attempt to use consumer data without following due process, may breach the trust consumers have on service providers.

Recently, many developments have been made on the front of securing data and informational privacy of the Indian citizens. There is a dire need to raise awareness and build capacity of consumers, particularly in tier-II locations, considering they are increasingly coming within the fold of the digital ecosystem concluded Swati Punia, Assistant Policy Analyst, CUTS who conducted the two-day workshop. Awareness workshops such as these, would help consumers safely navigate the digital ecosystem.

Representatives of various consumer and civil society organizations voiced their concerns and perspectives during the workshop. Valuable contributions were received from Mr. Hari Prasad Yogi, President, Consumer Legal Help Society, Manju Singh and Anil Singh, Professors, MNIT, Jaipur, among others.

For more information, please contact:
Nimra Khan:
Swati Punia: