We call on the TRAI to protect user privacy in the Indian telecom sector!

Fresh off the historic nine judge decision of the Supreme Court holding privacy as a fundamental right, IFF has called on the TRAI to protect user privacy and data protection in its ongoing public consultation “Privacy, Security and Ownership of the Data in the Telecom Sector”. We previously posted a short summary of this consultation paper back in September.

You can read our full November 6 comments to the TRAI here.

We request the TRAI to protect user privacy and data protection in the telecom sector in the following way:

  • A comprehensive rights based data protection statute: Data protection is about protecting the privacy of users by advancing their rights vis-a-vis their data. We request the TRAI to not go beyond the powers under the TRAI Act and the Telegraph Act. Any measures that the TRAI proposes should be a stop-gap arrangement targeting data collected by telecom service providers till a comprehensive privacy and data protection act is passed by Parliament.

  • A rule of law framework: We are troubled by the framing of the consultation paper which seeks to advocate that a “technology framework… will enable the regulator pro-actively monitor the system, as well as bring in advanced techniques for fraud detection”. This seems to suggest a technical framework that undermines consent, purpose limitations and accountability (consent is one of the primary principles of data protection).

  • Big data is personal data: The focus to fork out, “big data”, from the definition of “personal data” will undermine citizen rights. Aggregated data sets which are based on individual information have tremendous data protection implications.

Read our detailed submissions.

We have specifically suggested three steps the TRAI must take:

  • Consistently advance a position based off the foundation of privacy being a fundamental right of all Indian citizens and goes beyond “ownership”.

  • Protect telecom users against mass surveillance which is illegal and unconstitutional by starting a public consultation.

  • Share public consultation practices with the Justice Srikrishna Committee on Data Protection.

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