Draft data bill recommends treating all social media as platforms

Panel recommends widening the ambit of the Bill to include non-personal data and data collection by electronic hardware

Apart from the digital/software companies, the JCP is believed to have favoured bringing data collection by electronic hardware (telecom gears, IoT etc) under the ambit of this law itself

A Joint Committee of Parliament scrutinising the Personal Data Protection Bill has recommended widening the ambit of the Bill to include non-personal data and data collection by electronic hardware, and treating all social media as social media platform.

The final set of recommendations and dissent notes by at least seven members from opposition parties – the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the BJD – is likely to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament.

Chaired by P P Chaudhary, the JCP was set up in 2019 to take up the Bill after parliamentarians were divided over several provisions of the law meant to give a legal shape to the Right to Privacy after it was made a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in 2017.

The panel is believed to be in favour of widening the ambit of the legislation to include not just personal data but non-personal data as well. The proposed Data Protection Authority (DPA), it believes, should be a larger umbrella organisation to handle non-personal data as well. And for this, the JCP feels that further policy/legal framework on non-personal data in future should be made part of this legislation, and not a separate legislation. Apart from other industrial databases, the non-personal data will also include anonymised personal data under the proposed changes.

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Apart from the digital/software companies, the JCP is believed to have favoured bringing data collection by electronic hardware (telecom gears, IoT etc) under the ambit of this law itself. The legislation, as introduced, does not have any provision to keep a check on hardware manufacturers that collect data through digital devices. Given this backdrop, the JCP is believed to be in favour of suggesting incorporation of new clauses in the legislation that will allow DPA to frame regulations towards data handling by hardware manufacturers and related entities.

This will allow DPA to create a framework providing for monitoring, testing and certification to ensure integrity of hardware equipment to guard against any seeding that may lead to breach of personal data.

The JCP also wants to bring all social media intermediaries (governed by IT Rules) under its ambit by redesignating them as social media platforms. Likewise, it wants all social media platforms which do not act as intermediaries to be treated as publishers and be held accountable for the content they host.

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