Centre for Internet & Society


Executive Summary

In 2020, reports of the government's proposal to create a social registry to update the Socio Economic Caste Census 2011 data started surfacing. Based on the limited information around these proposals in the public domain, it is imperative that adequate consideration be provided to develop such systems in a manner that protects the informational privacy of the individuals. Currently, the proposed Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 is being deliberated by the Joint Parliamentary Committee and is expected to be tabled in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. The proposed data protection framework is a marked improvement over its predecessor, Section 43A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Information Technology (Reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information) Rules 2011. One substantial change in the context of welfare delivery is that the scope of the application of the proposed framework extends to the personal data processing by the government and its agencies. 

The objective of the white paper is to examine the application of the proposed data protection provisions on such a welfare delivery model (data exchange and delivery model) and suggest ways to operationalise key provisions. The scope of this white paper is limited to examining the personal data implications of the model and the effective governance of such platforms in India. The paper relies on publicly available details of India’s and other selected countries (Indonesia, Brazil, China, Malawi, Kenya, Estonia) digital infrastructure, proposals, schemes and legal frameworks in relation to welfare delivery in the country. International best practices around implementation of the principles of privacy and openness are analysed to suggest methods to operationalise these requirements in the context of the data exchange and delivery models and the proposed data protection framework of the country.  

Based on the global experience of implementing data exchange and delivery models and the best practices for implementation of data protection provisions, following are some of the key recommendations (in addition to discussing ways to operationalise the data protection provisions) for such a platform in the Indian context:

  • Application of Data Protection Legislation: Due to the sensitive processing of personal data accompanied with harms arising from unlawful surveillance, such a data exchange and delivery model should not be deployed without an overarching data protection legislation. It is vital that the application of the legislation extends to the model. The Data Protection Authority of India should be able to exercise its investigative, corrective and advisory powers over the functioning and management of the model.

  • Independent Regulator: Oversight over the functioning of the platform should not be vested with the agency that is responsible for the maintenance of the platform to address potential conflict of interest issues. Additional sub - committees based on subject matter expertise for each individual scheme can be set up to assist the regulator, if required. The independent regulator should have strong investigative, corrective and advisory powers for effective oversight over the activities of the platform. Enforcement actions of the regulator should be transparent.

  • Governance: The data fiduciary responsible for the management and operation of the data exchange and delivery platform should be clearly identified. The platform should have valid legislative backing. In case of involvement of private actors, additional safeguards related to the privacy and confidentiality of the data in the platform should be implemented.

  • Data Protection Authority of India and Platform: There should be clear channels of communication between the data protection authority of India and the data fiduciaries managing and accessing the platform for guidance on data protection issues.

  • Grievance Redressal Mechanism: An accessible grievance redressal mechanism should be set up at different points of the service delivery and their existence should be publicised through different mediums. As the platform can act as a single point of failure for multiple schemes, an integration of the redressal mechanisms across multiple schemes should be considered based on existing institutional structures. Multiple channels for receiving complaints must be set up for the citizen’s convenience.

Read the full report here.
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