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Safeguarding Citizens’ Privacy: India’s Digital Personal Data Protection Act Becomes Law

  • By Priya
  • September 3, 2023
  • 595 Views

In today’s interconnected world, it’s nearly impossible to avoid digital interactions and online transactions. As a result, safeguarding personal data has become a matter of utmost importance. Whether we’re making payments to a cobbler, acquiring high-end gadgets, submitting job applications with our CVs, or sharing cherished moments with family and friends through photos, virtually every facet of our lives has undergone digitization. This pervasive trend results in a continuous stream of our personal information entering the digital domain. Regrettably, we often lack awareness of how, when, where, and by whom our personal data is being employed, and at times, it is even subject to misuse.

There are numerous instances where the improper handling of personal data leads to dire consequences, such as unauthorized access resulting in depleted bank balances, instances of blackmail, unwarranted social media posts, and the annoyance of incessant junk calls. The average individual faces numerous challenges when it comes to safeguarding their data from misuse.

Recognizing the significance of data protection in the digital age, India has taken a significant stride forward by approving the Digital Personal Data Protection Act 2023, a comprehensive legislative framework aimed at securing citizens’ digital information. The Act’s approval by the President of India marks a monumental step towards ensuring the privacy and security of personal data in the country.

In today’s interconnected world, it’s nearly impossible to avoid digital interactions and online transactions. As a result, safeguarding personal data has become a matter of utmost importance. Whether we’re making payments to a cobbler, acquiring high-end gadgets, submitting job applications with our CVs, or sharing cherished moments with family and friends through photos, virtually every facet of our lives has undergone digitization. This pervasive trend results in a continuous stream of our personal information entering the digital domain. Regrettably, we often lack awareness of how, when, where, and by whom our personal data is being employed, and at times, it is even subject to misuse.”

There are numerous instances where the improper handling of personal data leads to dire consequences, such as unauthorized access resulting in depleted bank balances, instances of blackmail, unwarranted social media posts, and the annoyance of incessant junk calls. The average individual faces numerous challenges when it comes to safeguarding their data from misuse.

The Need for Data Protection

Free vector computer communications safety and private data protection

As the world increasingly relies on digital platforms for communication, commerce, and social interaction, personal data has emerged as a valuable commodity. From financial transactions to social media interactions, personal data is generated and exchanged at an unprecedented rate. However, this rapid growth in data exchange also brings forth concerns about how this data is collected, processed, and stored. Instances of data breaches, identity theft, and unauthorized use of personal information underscore the need for robust data protection measures.

The law establishes a unique framework distinct from the GDPR, imposing substantial obligations on entities known as “data fiduciaries,”  akin to data controllers. There is a heavy penalties if there is any  breach of provisions under this Act. These duties encompass the requirement to disseminate privacy notices in English and 22 other languages, encompassing nearly all consent-dependent personal data processing. Moreover, the law necessitates the disclosure of all data security breaches to data subjects and forbids the disclosure of personal information as part of freedom of information requests.

Principal Elements of the Digital Personal Data Protection Act

The Digital Personal Data Protection Act aims to establish a comprehensive legal framework to regulate the collection, processing, and storage of personal data in India. The Act incorporates several key provisions to ensure data privacy and protection:

Consent and Transparency: The Act emphasizes the importance of informed consent from individuals before their data can be collected and processed. Organizations are required to clearly explain the purpose and extent of data usage to users.

Sensitive Personal Data: The Act identifies certain categories of sensitive personal data, such as financial information, health records, and biometric data. Special safeguards are put in place for the collection and processing of such data.

Data Localization: The Act outlines guidelines for data localization, requiring certain categories of data to be stored within the boundaries of the country. This measure aims to enhance the government’s ability to regulate and protect data.

Accountability and Penalties: Organizations handling personal data are held accountable for any breaches or mishandling of data. Stringent penalties are outlined for non-compliance, serving as a deterrent against data misuse.

Data Protection Authority: The Act establishes an independent regulatory body, the Data Protection Authority (DPA), responsible for overseeing and enforcing data protection regulations. The DPA plays a pivotal role in upholding the principles of the Act.

Cross-Border Data Transfer: The Act provides guidelines for cross-border transfer of data, ensuring that data sent to other countries adheres to similar standards of protection.

Data Fiduciaries

Data fiduciaries are entities or individuals who are entrusted with the responsibility of collecting, processing, storing, or managing personal data on behalf of others, often with a legal or contractual obligation to protect and manage that data responsibly. This term is commonly used in the context of data protection and privacy laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and similar regulations in other regions.

Data fiduciaries have a legal and ethical duty to handle personal data in a manner that respects the privacy and rights of the individuals to whom the data belongs. They must ensure that the data is used only for the purposes for which it was collected and must take appropriate measures to safeguard it.

For example, employers who collect personal data, with consent,  from existing employees and  potential candidates have a data fiduciary obligation to protect such data from misuse  as per the Digital Personal Data Protection Act which is a huge and complicated responsibility.

Impact on Indian Society

The approval of the Digital Personal Data Protection Act holds significant implications for Indian society:

Enhanced Privacy: Citizens can enjoy a higher level of privacy and control over their personal data, bolstered by organizations’ increased accountability.

Trust and Confidence: The Act can foster greater trust between consumers and businesses, reassuring users that their data is handled responsibly.

Foreign Investment: Clear data protection regulations can attract foreign investments, as international companies are more likely to operate in a secure and predictable regulatory environment.

Innovation: The Act’s provisions can stimulate innovation in data-driven technologies and services, as organizations explore creative ways to leverage data while ensuring compliance.

Empowerment: Individuals gain a stronger grip on their personal data, allowing them to make informed choices about sharing their information online.

Conclusion

The approval of the Digital Personal Data Protection Act 2023 in India is a momentous step towards ensuring that the country’s citizens have robust safeguards in place to protect their digital identities. By establishing clear guidelines for data collection, processing, and storage, the Act promotes accountability, transparency, and trust in an increasingly digital world. As India paves the way for a more secure digital landscape, the Act stands as a testament to the nation’s commitment to upholding privacy rights and shaping a responsible data-driven future.

Priya Iyengar – Founder  & CEO, Compass Law Associates; Compass Conflict Resolutions

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