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India's Digital Independence: What Government Can Do to Protect Residents Against Data Breaches

Personal data exploitation is a goldmine that has been exploited by big players in the digital world. Several leading companies have suffered data breaches and thereby exposed data subjects to unwarranted risks. Today, data brokers, advertisers, search engines, and social media networks are at the center of privacy breaches — they know everything about consumers, from their date of birth to marital status as well as from the food they like to the schools their kid goes to.

In the Indian context, this is more serious as the population is not well aware of data risks and has evolving levels of digital literacy.

As India steps into the 5G era with ambitious goals set to be achieved within ‘Amrit Kaal’ (2022-2047), it needs a robust digital independence strategy against global personal data exploitation — designed and executed by Indians — in order to maintain control over the Indian user’s digital identity and privacy.

India’s Digital Independence Plan: A Three-Part Strategy to Safeguard User Data

A major reason why the digital identity of a user is at risk is due to the fact that there is no standard in the way consumers deal with their identity online. Mostly, they use different usernames and passwords on different websites, which means that there is a high chance of getting their data hacked or misused.

To safeguard data, we need a single digital identity that can be used across the internet. In order to achieve this, the Indian government must devise a single digital identity platform for the Indian population with appropriate regulations and safeguards. This digital identity platform should be able to provide consumers with all services they are getting today without any hassle such as booking tickets, buying health insurance policies, opening bank accounts, filing income tax returns, etc.

One such initiative is the DigiLocker linked single-sign-on technology which the federal government has launched. But it has limitations. People can register on the platform only if they have a mobile number and e-mail linked with Aadhaar Card. However, a majority of the population doesn’t use e-mail in India. We need to find out an easy solution. This in a way will tokenize identity the way RBI has tokenized cards.

Digital Literacy, Awareness, and Legal Protection

We have become so dependent on the internet for almost everything that we have become oblivious to the risks associated with our data being exposed online. This lack of awareness and digital literacy will eventually lead to a situation wherein people don’t know that they are being exploited until it is too late.

During ‘Amrit Kaal’, India will have to work actively to promote digital literacy and awareness to enable its people to avail the benefits of new-age technologies. This can be ensured by communicating awareness campaigns through social media, schools, and other public forums.

Moreover, Indian laws should be amended to make data protection a fundamental right. A data protection law can be enforced to ensure that personal data is used appropriately. The law should contain provisions for imposing a penalty on companies that misuse or fail to protect personal data. Appointing a Data Protection Regulator (DPR) is the need of the hour to execute this task.

Develop a Made-In-India Digital Identity Platform

The government can partner with an Indian company that has been working in the field of digital identity for a long time to create a trusted digital identity platform for Indians. This platform can be used to store the digital identity of Indian citizens safely.

Partner With Global Players to Make Indian Services More Trusted by Citizens

There are many digital services — healthcare services, online education, online shopping and e-commerce, remote work, and freelancing service — that are run by foreign companies, and these are immensely beneficial for Indians. The federal government can partner with these companies to make them more trusted for the Indian population. It must also regulate the activities in terms of data use and protection and impose a penalty for non-compliance with laws and regulations.

‘Tech-ade of India’

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlines the vision of the newly launched 5G as ‘Internet for All’ and hails the current decade as ‘Tech-ade of India’, we must make every effort to remove all the hurdles in the way of using the potential of the internet. Data privacy is primary among them.

In this ‘Amrit Kaal’, we will have to spread awareness to the nooks and corners of the country, create a robust policy framework, and establish partnerships with key stakeholders to safeguard consumer data. The measures to protect data privacy will help Indians reap the maximum benefits of technology and the ongoing digital revolution.

Article was originally written for abpLIVE

© Copyright 2022. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of Ankura Consulting Group, LLC., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals. Ankura is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice.

A major reason why the digital identity of a user is at risk is due to the fact that there is no standard in the way consumers deal with their identity online.


data privacy & cyber risk, cyber response, cybersecurity & data privacy, article

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