Google Emphasizing cross border Internet flow in India

Google has told India that it favours free flow of cross-border data on the internet, emphasising on security and privacy of users, even as the country is mulling to bring online and digital companies to host user data locally in its data protection framework.

“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,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a letter to Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, thanking him for the visit last month to the Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Pichai’s letter on September 5 to Prasad comes at a time when the government has extended the deadline to September 30 for pubic responses on the draft data protection bill.

A panel led by former Supreme Court Judge Justice BN Srikrishna in July submitted its report on data protection to the government and shared a draft bill, which the goverment had sought public consultations on, before it enacts a law. It had earlier set September 10 as the deadline for public comments. ET had reported earlier that the government plans to present the bill in Parliament by December this year.

The panel had recommended that every data fiduciary in India shall ensure the storage of at least one serving copy of personal data on a server or data centre located in India.

It also stated that the government can notify some categories of personal data as critical personal data that have to be stored in a server or data centre located only in India.

The Reserve Bank of India has already directed banks and financial institutions to host user data locally and asked them to update it every fortnight on its progress. Prasad also said recently that he has conveyed to companies like Amazon to check unbridled cross-border migration of data without the consent of users.

While local firms such as Paytm have favoured data localisation, industry bodies such as the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), an industry body which represents both domestic and global internet companies, and Nasscom, the software lobby grouping, have raised concerns on data localisation. 

Both associations have claimed that the measure will create trade barriers, increase cost for small companies and will impact the ease of doing business for Indian companies. US trade bodies have also raised concern over the move.

Google has maintained in the past that it will comply with local laws in the country and would work with industry associations and the government for a right policy framework.

“We follow local laws and local legislation, so whatever India decides, we will comply with,” Rajan Anandan, vice-president for Google India and South East Asia had told ET in May.

“Today, it is a global internet economy. Obviously, when you change any aspect of that, you have to be very thoughtful of what you want to change because it has implications on many things,” he had said.

Pichai’s letter to Prasad also says that Google shares the vision of creating a truly ‘Digital India’ and Google remains firmly committed to being part of the India growth story.

“The Google team in India will be in touch with your office to follow up on some of the specific topics we discussed during our meeting,” he wrote.

Pichai and his leadership team had briefed Prasad about the company’s plans for India in the areas of connectivity, Indic languages, artificial intelligence and capacity-building of startups and small enterprises.
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