Privacy on India’s fast-growing internet needs rethink in terms of sovereignty

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/27 22:53:40

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's official mobile app allegedly sent personal user data to a third party without users' consent, Reuters reported, news that caused an uproar online and made people aware of the seriousness of personal privacy problems.

With the growth in internet use in India, leaks of personal information happen more frequently. The introduction of Aadhaar - the country's digital identity system - and some new apps has triggered fierce controversies about whether the software has loopholes that may lead to privacy violations.

Online privacy is among the most common problems seen in emerging economies where the internet is growing fast. Amid the Facebook data scandal, developed countries, especially the EU, have worked harder to achieve privacy protection. Enforceable regulations concerning data protection have been established in those countries. But emerging countries, including China and India, need to speed up efforts to address the privacy problem.

One question worth considering is what role the government should play in privacy enforcement. The question is not a result of economic nationalism or opposition to government procurement, but an issue regarding the government's obligation when it comes to online privacy issues.

Enacting laws is not enough by itself to provide adequate protection for personal privacy, and the government should be involved in internet governance and the technical design of certain apps. The supervision of the fast-growing internet will not be easy, but the government should not use this as an excuse to evade its obligations.

Some emerging economies may draw on the experience of developed countries in privacy protection, but they need to be aware that information security is to some extent a part of national sovereignty. The system of law in India is inherited from the British system, since India was once a British colony, and this situation bred a Western way of thinking in some issues regarding privacy protection. Now it is time to think whether this applies to the protection of internet sovereignty.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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