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Tuesday, 08 September 2020 00:00
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Niti Aayog's DEPA draft is a step towards user empowerment


If Facebook is unhappy with Apple trying to introduce norms which make it difficult to track users, it is certainly not going to be happy with India's Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture (DEPA). Apple, last month, announced that it would ask for user consent each time a service is trying to track users, making it difficult for companies like Facebook, which use consumer data to do targetted advertising. Now, India is planning to do something similar. A replication of this on the national scale is indeed an achievement in itself, but the draft rules released by Niti Aayog over the weekend hold more promise than just consent sharing. For one, they talk about the creation of consent managers or account aggregators, which will facilitate such sharing. So, if a company XYZ is requesting data from ABC, a consent manager will facilitate this process, while also ensuring user consent. This would eliminate the requirement of long and tedious terms and conditions, which allowed companies to carry out an array of services in the name of user consent. 

Last year, RBI allowed this in some form by giving an in-principle nod to seven account aggregators who can facilitate collection of data. In the case of financial services, this is meant to help MSMEs make the process of purchasing loans, insurance and other products more accessible. The government also discussed this in some form in its draft policy for health data released last month, where it said user would have to provide consent each time her data is shared. Also, the user shall have a database to see which companies are accessing her data and can revoke data sharing at any point in time. A dashboard with all sharing requests and access will also be provided for the user.

Niti Aayog's draft norms also stipulate something similar, but are not limited to areas of health and finance. Also, the rules go one step ahead of the non-personal data draft and demand reciprocity from companies, i.e., if a company is willing to purchase data, it should also be ready to sell it in the market. While the framework suggested by Niti Aayog utilizes existing norms and laws to allow data sharing, unless the government clears the personal and non-personal data bill, the consumer will be a bit hesitant. Also, if companies are going to pay consumers for their data, it is possible the latter may have to start paying for services like email, maps etc.


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