India seeks new regulator for nonpersonal data

India should set up a data regulator to oversee how companies collect, process, store, monetize and even destroy nonpersonal data (or data that has been anonymized), a panel tasked by New Delhi has recommended in a draft report.

The eight-person panel said that companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Uber have benefited from a combination of “first mover advantage,” “sizable network effect” and “enormous data” that they have collected over the years.

This dominance has “left many new entrants and startups being squeezed and faced with significant entry barriers,” said the draft report, which has been made available to industry players for consultation before it is submitted to the nation’s IT ministry next month.

New Delhi, which appointed the aforementioned committee last year, has in recent years moved to better understand and control how technology companies make use of data and devise new guidelines for several sectors including e-commerce.

India has emerged as battleground for global giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and ByteDance that are looking to court hundreds of millions of first-time internet users in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Last month, New Delhi banned 59 apps and services developed by Chinese firms citing security and privacy concerns. On Monday, Google announced it plans to invest $10 billion in India to help accelerate the adoption of digital services.

In the draft report, obtained by TechCrunch and embedded below, the panel said that a data authority that provides centralized regulations for all nonpersonal data exchanges is required to closely evaluate and oversee the aforementioned aspects.

“Market transactions and market forces on their own will not bring about the maximum social and economic benefits from data for the society. Appropriate institutional and regulatory structures are essential for a thriving data economy and a well-functioning data society,” the report said.

The proposed regulator will have “integration” with “raw data pipes” of tech companies, and will be able to exercise its legal power to make data sharing requests.

The draft report also recommends that companies provide their users with metadata of information they are collecting or processing from them so that “users may identify opportunities for combining data from multiple data businesses and/or governments to develop innovative solutions, products and services.”

“Every data business must declare what they do and what data they collect, process and use, in which manner, and for what purposes. This is similar to disclosures required by pharma industry and in food products,” the draft report recommends.