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Crippling data rules may hit India's global analytics dreams

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The Economic Times
22nd February, 2019 09:37 IST

India may lose the opportunity to emerge as a global hub for data analytics if the proposal to weaken legal safeguards given to technology intermediaries, including cloud companies, are finalised, Microsoft India managing director Anant Maheshwari said.

Many in the technology industry have raised concerns over the amendments that India has proposed to the Information Technology Act’s Intermediary Guidelines, covering law enforcement cooperation on data, take down requests and traceability of messages. Even though the rules are targeted at social media platforms, the government has included all technology intermediaries including cloud firms under their scope. If proposals such as making intermediaries subject to orders issued by state or central governments without any judicial overview are implemented, they have warned, that would hurt the county’s efforts to attract investments in emerging areas like data analytics.

Union minister for electronics & IT Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday that India should become a data analytics hub. “The minister said he expects India to be the hub of data analytics in the world and we (India) would like everybody to send their data to India and work with all the data in India,” Maheshwari said at an ET roundtable on the sidelines of the Nasscom Technology and Leadership Forum. “Now, if you have a debate like that where (there is concern that) every state official can do anything with that data, you ask yourself why would somebody send their data to India.”

In their response to the government proposals, Nasscom and Amazon Web Services (AWS) had said the intermediary rules must apply only to social media companies and not to technology intermediaries such as cloud platforms and the IT and business process management sectors. AWS said such intermediaries under the current proposals would have to bear the cost of complying with provisions that don’t apply to them.

Wipro’s chief strategy officer and Nasscom chairman Rishad Premji said the technology policy should not be framed factoring in the cases with a handful of companies (which do harm) as it might end up stifling innovation in the rest. “The two — trust and safety — are very different components. The debate I think is worth having is whether self-regulation or very strong, overt regulation is required. We have to be very thoughtful about it and not do something in haste,” Premji said. Infosys called for talks among stakeholders for an effective law. “We have to probably have a conversation with the regulators...and probably make it practical and so there is a need for dialogue between regulators, industry, government, the whole community,” chief operating officer Pravin Rao said. Conversations around technology policy are complex but one must remember that globalisation depends on cross-border flow of information, he added.

Technology product and services companies significantly contribute to the country’s export earnings and, for certain exceptional events on social media platforms, the larger industry should not be “endangered”, Maheshwari said.

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