‘Robust legal framework needed to protect data’: Ravi Shankar Prasad

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On Saturday, Union Minister for Information Technology & law Ravi Shankar Prasad said that India has the potential to emerge as global hub of international arbitration. Addressing the ‘International Conference on Globalisation of Professional Education: Constitutional Conspectus’, organised by Bennett University’s School of Law, the minister said India was set to play a global role in economy, supply chain & international trade and, therefore, had to become a hub for arbitration.

While inviting foreign firms to take advantage of India’s unique potential, the Minister also underlined the need to protect “data privacy of people & data sovereignty” of the country. “International supply chains are going to raise new challenges, new legal issues,” Prasad told an audience of academics & students, adding that there needed to be a “robust legal architecture” to protect data in a digital economy like India.

“After all, any digital economy generates data. If I ask my department to pull out data of this interaction today, it will run into thousands & thousands,” the Minister observed. “I would like the vice-chancellor to know that India has the biggest operation of Facebook and WhatsApp, the third biggest operation of Twitter. All social media companies are doing good business in India.”

Ravi Shankar Prasad said while social media had empowered Indians, there was a need to flag concerns not on the use, but the misuse & abuse of social media. This had been articulated in the new social media guidelines, he said, pointing out that the consent to share data had be an informed one.

“What happens when a victim of abuse & misuse doesn’t get a proper forum for grievances? What should I do as minister of IT & communications when a distraught mother comes to me complaining that her teen daughter’s former boyfriend is posting all intimate pictures on social media? should I keep quiet?” the Minister asked. “I have a commitment to her dignity. A victim of abuse & misuse must have a forum for settlement of grievances within a time frame.”

Stressing on need to respect the Indian Constitution & the country’s laws, the minister said, “If Twitter appreciates police action on Capitol Hill in Washington, it is good. But how is it that when an Indian symbol of democracy, the Red Fort, is attacked by aggressors you side with them? This is unacceptable.”

In his address, Prasad also explained how rules & regulations were reformed to allow work from home during the pandemic. He said norms were changed, & regulatory restrictions removed, thus allowing 85% of the IT industry to operate via work from home.

He disclosed, “The PM told me that work from home should now be elevated to work from anywhere”.

Ravi Shankar Prasad said there was both a Govt & private obligation in ensuring quality higher education in India, & urged the Bar Council of India, which governs legal education, to “reflect” on the challenges & opportunities offered by higher legal education.

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