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HRW urges India to amend proposed data protection law that violates rights

New Delhi, Dec 23 (EFE).- The Government of India should amend its proposed data protection law that enables unchecked state surveillance, rather than protecting the privacy of users online, the nonprofit Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Friday.

“India’s proposed data protection law undermines everyone’s, including children’s, fundamental rights to privacy and security by enhancing the power of the state to conduct surveillance,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

HRW said the current draft would grant sweeping powers to the government beyond reasonable exceptions to exempt itself from compliance with the bill’s data protection provisions for vague and overbroad reasons.

It underlined that the bill does not elaborate on its interpretations of security and public order, terms that the government has long abused to violate freedom of expression and due process rights of critics of the government.

Nor does it define standards of sovereignty, integrity or friendly relations with other countries, which makes this bill not only violate the standard of invasions of the right to privacy ruled by the Supreme Court in 2017, but also is “inconsistent with international human rights law,” HRW said.

“The data protection bill does not provide for safeguards or independent oversight of these government powers, and instead proposes a Data Protection Board whose members would be appointed and removed, and whose terms and conditions of service would be prescribed, by the government,” underlined the HRW statement.

This absence of controls, would facilitate surveillance and possible massive violations of people’s privacy, so unless it guarantees oversight of these government agencies, the law will not safeguard the rights of users, according to the nonprofit.

For HRW, the draft also does not contemplate the protection of children, who would be even more exposed to risks related to technologies.

“The bill would delete all previous references to protecting a child’s best interests when online, proposing instead to protect children from overly narrow definitions of ‘harm,’ such as physical harm,” it said.

While the bill calls for a ban on behavioral advertising, the organization believes that it does not protect children from the many forms of exploitation they may face through the misuse of their data, such as discrimination, mental injury, or economic or sexual exploitation.

“The government should take special care to protect children in contexts in which they, or their guardians, cannot meaningfully consent to how their data privacy is handled,” said HRW.

In this sense, the authorities should not only amend the bill to tighten the protection of children, but should also require that all processes meet strict requirements of necessity and proportionality, regardless of consent, it added.

“India’s first data protection law should respect people’s rights, not become a tool for further invasion of their privacy,” Ganguly said. EFE


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