Benefits of data rules must reach citizens, not just companies: S Gopalakrishnan–the economic times

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Infosys cofounder Kris Gopalakrishnan said worries over data sharing and privacy will subside once the boundaries around data are clearly drawn by the government.

CHENNAI:InfosysNSE 0.76 % cofounder S Gopalakrishnan said the broad strokes of data regulations lie in trying to leverage the economic value of data for the benefit of the citizens, not just for corporations, and protecting them from the vulnerabilities inherent in the digital era. “India has a huge opportunity to leverage data in every aspect: data will be very important in providing credit, better banking services, healthcare, education, retail and ecommerce. Everywhere, the efficiency can be improved, services levels enhanced. It is not just the companies benefitting, the individual also benefits,” Gopalakrishnan told ET in an interview.

On Friday, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) formed a committee headed by Gopalakrishnan to look at non-personal data and recommend a regulatory framework to handle such information. These data could include aggregated data, derived data, anonymous data, ecommerce data, AI training data, etc. — for example, the traffic data collected by taxi aggregators such as Uber and Ola, consumption data from food aggregators like Swiggy and Zomato, search data from Google and ecommerce data from Amazon and Flipkart. The business data can be anonymised so as to ensure individual privacy. The aggregate data on consumer behaviour will help in formalising public policy.

Globally, companies are looking at anonymising data — stripping data sets of personal attributes of individuals and gleaning meaningful inferences from the data points.

Access to and control over various kinds of data are critical for economic advantage, the ministry said in its notification on the formation of the committee.

Last year, a committee headed by Justice BN Srikrishna had submitted a report on personal data protection that is now in the process of becoming a law. “There is public benefit in sharing data. If there is a way to populate a common database for, say to find out the incidence rate of communicable diseases in Chennai and populate this to reflect incidence across the country from data sets from other places… then proactively we can take action,” Gopalakrishnan said.

He said the understanding of data privacy would go through a change once the boundaries around data were clearly drawn, dispelling concerns about disclosing identity. “Establishing policies around data, how industry must responsibly use your data and respect your privacy — today it’s not codified and hence the worry about disclosing your identity,” he said. “I think our concept of privacy will go through a change because we are voluntarily disclosing whom we are because we want some service… In the physical world, property rights have been clearly established. I think, over time, property rights will be clearly established in the online world.”

Gopalakrishnan said the world moving to the data era presented its own set of challenges for sovereign nations. “Unfortunately or fortunately, data, compared to all the previous eras — agriculture, manufacturing and IT or digital — where the economic value lay in physical goods, knows no national boundaries. It can be transmitted without friction. How does a nation create value on the data of its citizens? How does a nation protect the data of its citizens? These are the questions everyone is grappling with,” he said.

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