Mozilla says India's planned data harvest law is 'blunt' and should be caste aside

Warns that plan could lead to 'dangerous inferences' about user identity, suggests GDPR is a better model

Mozilla has strongly criticised India’s draft plan to allow companies to harvest non-personal data.

India's plan [PDF], proposed in July 2020 by a committee chaired by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, recommended companies be allowed to use non-personal data generated in India for commercial purposes. The committee also suggested that the Indian government establish a new authority to monitor how such companies use the data.

But some of the “blunt strategies” the committee proposed will do more harm than good, Mozilla said in its comments on the report [PDF] .

“Ultimately, a maximalist focus on boosting domestic industry could hurt the very businesses it is meant to serve, while limiting competition, and diminishing the choices of user," the organisation wrote.

In particular, Mozilla said the report underestimated privacy concerns around the sharing of non-personal data. As an example, it cites that sales location data from e-commerce platforms can be used to “draw dangerous inferences and patterns regarding caste, religion, and sexuality.”

A maximalist focus on boosting domestic industry could hurt the very businesses it is meant to serve.

The browser-making organisation also warned that the laws would replace “the fundamental right to privacy with a notion of ownership akin to property, vested in the individual but easily divested by state and non-state actors, leaving individual autonomy in a precarious position.”

Overall, Mozilla warned enacting the proposed laws could “harm Indians, isolate companies from their global counterparts, and cause other countries to retaliate with similar ‘data nationalism’ measures that would be counterproductive to India’s interests.”

Instead, it recommended India instead focuses on instituting comprehensive data protection laws to match the standard set by the European Union. As an example, the organisation that India has “some of the weakest regulations around government surveillance in the world” and that these laws need to be reformed.

"Rather than viewing this as a zero-sum game, there is much for India to gain by leveraging the interconnectedness of the global digital economy while respecting the fact that privacy is a fundamental right guaranteed to all," Mozilla said. ®

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