The big data leak: A wake up call for India for a robust law

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markThe recent controversy coming on the heels of the brouhaha over Aadhaar, about the data leak by Cambridge Analytica, has set off a storm with allegations of how some Indian political parties had deployed this to tilt the elections in their favour. It is now proved that Cambridge Analytica used the data of 50 million Facebook users to feed strategies such as ‘behavioural microtargeting’ and ‘psychographic messaging’.

The union government has conveyed to Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg its displeasure over attempts to interfere with elections in India. The BJP has accused the Congress of using the now-notorious Cambridge Analytica in elections and the Congress has hit back with the same charge. There are bound to be allegations and counter allegations with perhaps no conclusive results. However, one thing is sure that in the not-too-distant future, Artificial Intelligence would determine strategies and data concerning information about individuals would be used as fodder. Some unethical tech-based bodies are busy in having their hold over people’s lives as much as possible and the day may not be far when entities may know your pulse rate in real time.

Important data leaks can lead to serious damage to personal integrity. We use Facebook and other social media platforms to connect with long lost friends, to share our thoughts and ideologies, to share personal tidings without realising that someone is keeping a hawk’s eye, watching, analysing our preferences, our personality traits and storing them all in a data bank for use by interested parties. Though Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has tendered an apology, it is time to reframe laws to safeguard personal data. Millions of people share data knowingly or unknowingly, unaware of the implications.

Technology is evolving at a neck break speed leading to fear of data misuse. Individuals own their personal data and they have a right to know how and where governments, political parties or corporates are going to use that data. Whosoever controls data is obliged to protect it. All stake holders need to collaborate to bring a strong, robust law that is in conformity with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation that will come into effect from May 25.

The good news is that amidst a raging political battle over data leak, former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar has met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press for a standalone law on protection of privacy with latter assuring him of intervention.

This big data leak is a big wake-up call for India.