First Net Neutrality, Now User Privacy: TRAI Is Securing Digital World One Step At A Time

Industry praises TRAI's landmark recommendations regarding user privacy, control over personal data and transparency

e4m by Apeksha Mishra
Published: Jul 18, 2018 9:00 AM  | 5 min read

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) passed some extremely significant recommendations regarding user privacy, control over personal data and transparency on Tuesday. With so much hullabaloo over ownership of data, TRAI's move couldn't have come at a better time, when the world is struggling with ethics concerning privacy and security in the always-on digital ecosystem. That this comes immediately after TRAI's nod for net neutrality in India is another cause for celebration.
If you take a leaf out of the quote “Privacy is not an option, and it shouldn’t be the price we accept for just getting on the Internet," as a concerned digital user, you would know what it exactly means. 

These are times when one has no control over personal data in the digital ecosystem. With privacy being one of the most debated topics recently, TRAI said on Tuesday that only users must have control over personal data, not companies. It particularly said that users should be given the right to be forgotten in the digital world. Even if India does not have its own General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) yet, this comes closest to what EU countries just put into action a couple of months ago.
But then with data breach events like the Facebook- Cambridge Analytica scandal, FedEX, Timehop, Equifax, are we simply paying the price for living in a digital age or is it an infringement on our rights as citizens and consumers? It’s time to question.

Commenting on how TRAI can afford to safeguard customer data with its new rules, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance CMO, Chandramohan Mehra said, “Responsible brands are becoming increasingly sensitive and designing relevant process framework to safeguard customer’s data privacy. Such regulatory interventions keeping customers interest at focal point will surely increase consumer confidence and certainly augur well for business environment in long term.”
Lauding TRAI’s move, Rohan Mehta, CEO, Social Kinnect, said, “These recommendations have come in at a great time, just after implementing net neutrality. I’m impressed with their forward-thinking outlook on this topic and believe that there is a clear need for stricter data privacy protocols and there could not be a better time for us to act on it.” 
With praises already pouring in, TRAI in its recommendations also listed customers to have the right to stop services along with the right to be forgotten by seeking the deletion of all information, which an individual might have saved previously. India’s Telecom Regulatory also stated that the Government should transfer data only to countries which have Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties agreements with India and in which there are adequate privacy and security regulations. Not only this, but also Foreign companies operating out of the Indian soil will have to adhere to relevant Indian laws governing data privacy and secrecy.

Reacting to whether the new rules will make a difference to businesses in India, Hina Mittal Nayar, Co-founder & CEO, ProfiliAd, said, “All digital/text message marketing companies whose core business is ‘marketing’ will be impacted, as there would be restriction in using data without the user’s consent. No promotional messages would be forwarded without the user’s consent. These rules will certainly help users to take well informed decisions about their personal data. Once these measures are implemented on a daily basis, the risk of user data being misused would get minimised, customers would no longer be spammed with unnecessary promotional messages without their consent. What is crucial is whether these guidelines will be implemented and followed in the right manner, for that alone will decide how safe our data is.” 
The industry at large seem to be quite satisfied with TRAI’s recommendations. Parveez Nasyam, CEO & Managing Director - Xenium Digital, also spoke in favour of the new guidelines. “This is a very good move and the need of the hour. Data will be more focused now. This is turn stops irrelevant information from passing on, thus helping advertisers and users to get more focused data by eliminating piracy and false information.” 
TRAI recommends data protection law to be applicable to all entities in the digital eco-system including iPhones, tablets, operating systems like Android and iOS, browsers such as Google Chrome, social networking platforms such as Facebook, app based services Paytm, Zomato, Ola, also machine to machine devices, all to be brought under one framework of law.
In a letter to Aruna Sundarajan, Telecom Secretary, SK Gupta, TRAI Secy, said, “Data is ubiquitous in the Digital Era today. The issue of protection of personal data of users is a matter of deep concern for everyone.” He further recommended, “The right to choice, notice, consent, data portability and right to be forgotten should be conferred upon the telecommunication consumer.” These rules are all based on definitions of data as provided under IT Act 2000 and Sensitive Personal Data & Information rules, 2011.

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