The LocalCircles conducted a survey to gauge the public opinion on the draft Non-Personal Data Policy released in mid-July by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The survey samples over 17,000 responses from citizens and 15,000 responses from Majority Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and startups across 280 districts of the country. The report says that the majority of the MSMEs and startups believe that “permitting large businesses and platforms to sell aggregate data for a price” will not support them in any way.
The draft Non-Personal Data Policy
The Non-Personal Data Policy framework deals with anonymous data of the companies that do not contain any identifiable information. A government committee headed by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan suggests that the non-personal data generated in the country should be public for use by domestic companies and entities.
The draft report suggests setting up a monitoring department that looks into the mining of non-personal data. Public non-personal data collected by census and tax receipts were already in the government records. Community non-personal data is collected by companies like food delivery companies, telecom services, electricity boards, etc. and personal data is produced by individuals. The Non-Personal Data Policy framework suggests anonymous sharing of this entire network of data in the country.
What does the report say about startups and MSMEs?
“This is one of the most important inputs from startups and MSMEs where they believe that while such a policy may have a stated objective of helping small businesses, it will likely do the opposite if the aggregate data of businesses are requested to or sold by the business as a revenue stream for a price,” the report said.
It added, “Many startups and MSMEs believe that this will lead to one large company buying aggregate data of another large company while small businesses struggle to make ends meet.” A lot of respondents also believe that the companies with revenue above a threshold (annual revenue of more than Rs. 500 crores) should be allowed to choose the data they want to share if they agree upon a “predefined number of data points for the good of the industry, small business or public.” Over 72% of the businesses also believe that the government should set an example by sharing its own anonymous data regarding health, environment, traffic, etc. alongside guiding the companies to share their aggregate data. This will help create a holistic environment with better and more useful products and services.
Citizen’s perspective in the report
When asked if they will be comfortable in sharing their non-personal data anonymously, 27% of the respondents strongly denied while 35% said that they would do so in an investigation situation where law-order is in question. Only 30% of the citizens in the survey were willing to share their data with the Government for general purposes. Additionally, only 14% believed that businesses should sell their data anonymously to other businesses and the government, while 81% responded negatively.
The report concluded, “The kind of concerns that were raised by people included misuse of data for targeting specific communities or people residing in a particular area. The big concern here amongst people is that if any organization especially business is purchasing aggregate data from another business, there is a high likelihood that it will use it to target communities or groups of individuals with their products and services. This will likely mean unsolicited offers, spam and targeted advertising.”
The Policy Times Suggestions
- The Non-Personal Data Policy framework needs further revisions and should include the opinions of the public and the businesses.
- A draft like this at the time when data privacy is the biggest concern does not stand well with the businesses or the public.
- The government should also release all its data if they want the businesses to do so, but if they are wary of data misuse, it is practically the reason why businesses do not want to share it too.
- It is important to note that big corporations have not commented on this draft at all.