Google CEO Sundar Pichai:Google Committed To Being Part Of India’s Growth Story

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Batting for a free flow of data across borders, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has written in a letter to IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad saying such a step will encourage global companies to contribute to India’s digital economy as well as benefit Indian startups that are looking at expanding globally. The letter was sent across to Prasad around 5 September, on the occasion of Prasad visiting the Google campus in Mountain View, California.

The letter comes at a time when the Justice BN Srikrishna panel has submitted its recommendations and the draft data protection bill, which highlights the need to have data localization. Data localization is the process of ensuring that data held by global IT, financial or any other companies on the citizens of a country, stays within that country. The idea behind ensuring data localization is to ensure that sensitive and private data of Indian citizens is stored on Indian soil.

Free flow of data across borders with a focus on user privacy and security will encourage startups to innovate and expand globally and encourage global companies to contribute to India’s digital economy. The development comes at a time when the government is working on a data protection framework for the country. The citizens’ rights have to be protected, the responsibilities of the states have to be defined, but the data protection can’t be at the cost of trade and industry.

Justice BN Srikrishna panel suggested steps for safeguarding personal information, defining obligations of data processors as also rights of individuals, and mooting penalties for violation. The areas covered by the recommendations include consent, what comprises personal data including sensitive personal data, exceptions which can be granted, grounds for processing data, storage restrictions for personal data, individual rights and right to be forgotten.

Recently, industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) had expressed concern around the bill, saying certain clauses around data localization and information processing are “restrictive” and will hurt Indian startups. It had also warned that other countries, where Indian startups are expanding to, may retaliate by demanding reciprocal data localization.

Startups wanting to expand abroad and international startups wanting to come to India would have to ensure that they have local data servers if indeed the data localization policy becomes a law. For big companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and others, it won’t be that great a deal to have a local server in India. Data localization also wouldn’t give Indian government entities complete control in case of criminal matters.