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Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy vs. The Leaked 2014 Privacy Bill

Posted by Elonnai Hickok at Apr 14, 2014 06:10 AM |
Following our previous post comparing the leaked 2014 Privacy Bill with the leaked 2011 Privacy Bill, this post will compare the recommendations provided in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy by the Justice AP Shah Committee to the text of the leaked 2014 Privacy Bill. Below is an analysis of recommendations from the Report that are incorporated in the text of the Bill, and recommendations in the Report that are not incorporated in the text of the Bill.

Recommendations in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy that are Incorporated in the 2014 Privacy Bill

Constitutional Right to Privacy

The Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy recommends that any privacy legislation for India specify the constitutional basis of a right to privacy. The 2014 Privacy Bill has done this, locating the Right to Privacy in Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Nine National Privacy Principles

The Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy recommends that nine National Privacy Principles be adopted and applied to harmonize existing legislation and practices. The 2014 Privacy Bill also adopts nine National Privacy Principles. Though these principles differ slightly from the National Privacy Principles recommended in the Report, they are broadly the same, and importantly will apply to all existing and evolving practices, regulations and legislations of the Government that have or will have an impact on the privacy of any individual. Presently, the 2014 Privacy Bill locates the nine National Privacy Principles in an Annex to the Bill, but also incorporates the principles in more detail in sections relating to personal data.  An analysis of the principles as compared in the Report and the Bill is below:

  • Notice: The principle of notice as recommended by the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy differs from the principle of notice in the 2014 Privacy Bill.  According to the notice principle in the Report, a data controller shall give sample to understand notice of its information practices to all individuals, in clear and concise language, before any personal information is collected from them. Such notices should include: (during collection) What personal information is being collected; Purposes for which personal information is being collected; Uses of collected personal information; Whether or not personal information may be disclosed to third persons;  Security safeguards established by the data controller in relation to the personal information; Processes available to data subjects to access and correct their own personal information;  Contact details of the privacy officers and SRO ombudsmen for filing complaints. (Other Notices) Data breaches must be notified to affected individuals and the commissioner when applicable. Individuals must be notified of any legal access to their personal information after the purposes of the access have been met. Individuals must be notified of changes in the data controller’s privacy policy. Any other information deemed necessary by the appropriate authority in the interest of the privacy of data subjects.

    In contrast, the 2014 Privacy Bill requires that all the data controllers provide adequate and appropriate notice of their information practices in a form that is easily understood by all intended recipients. In addition to this principle as listed in an annex, the Bill requires that on initial collection data controllers provide notice of what personal data is being collected and the legitimate purpose for which the personal data is being collected. If the purpose for which the personal data changes, data controllers must provide data subjects with a further notice that would include the use to which the personal data shall be put, whether or not the personal data will be disclosed to at third person and, if so, the identity of such person if the personal data being collected is intended to be transferred outside India  and the reasons for doing so; how such transfer helps in achieving the legitimate purpose; and whether the country to which such data is transferred has suitable legislation to provide for adequate protection and privacy of the data; the security and safeguards established by the data controller in relation to the personal data; the processes available to a data subject to access and correct his personal data; the recourse open to a data subject, if he has any complaints in respect of collection or processing of the personal data and the procedure relating thereto; the name, address and contact particulars of the data controller and all persons who will be processing the personal data on behalf of the data controller. Additionally, if a breach of data takes place data controllers must inform the affected data subject that lost or stolen; accessed or acquired by any person not authorized to do so; damaged, deleted or destroyed; processed, re-identified or disclosed in an unauthorized manner.

    Though the 2014 Privacy Bill requires a more comprehensive notice to be issued if the purpose for the use of personal data changes, it does not specify (as recommended by the Group of Experts on Privacy) that notice of changes to a data controller’s privacy policy be issued.
  • Choice and Consent: The principle of choice and consent in the 2014 Privacy Bill is similar to the principle in the Report of the Group of Experts on privacy in that it requires that all data subjects be provided with a choice to provide or not to provide personal data and that data subject will have the option of withdrawing consent at any time. Though not a part of the specific principle on ‘choice and consent’ listed in the annex the 2014 Privacy Bill also contains provisions that address mandatory collection of information which require, as recommended by the Report of the Group of Experts, that the information is anonymoized. Furthermore, the 2014 Privacy Bill provides individuals an opt-in or opt-out choice with respect to the provision of personal data.

    Different from as recommended in the principle in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy, the 2014 Privacy Bill does not specify that in exception cases when it is not possible to provide a service with choice and consent, then choice and consent will not be required.
  • Collection Limitation: The principle of collection limitation as recommended in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy and the principle of collection limitation in the Annex of the 2014 Privacy Bill are similar in that both require that only data that is necessary to achieve an identified purpose be collected. As recommended in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy, the 2014 Privacy Bill also requires that notice be provided prior to collection and content taken.
  • Purpose Limitation: Though the principle of Purpose Limitation are similar in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy and the 2014 Privacy Bill as they both require personal data to be used only for the purposes for which it was collected and that the data must be destroyed after the purposes have been served, the 2014 Privacy Bill does not specify that information collected by a data controller must be adequate and relevant for the purposes for which they are processed. The 2014 Privacy Bill also incorporates elements from the principle of Purpose Limitation as defined by the Report of the Group of Experts in other parts of the Bill. For example, the 2014 Bill requires that notice be provided to the individual if there is a change in purpose for the use of the personal information, and designates a section on retention of personal data.
  • Access and Correction: The principle of Access and Correction in the 2014 Privacy Bill reflects the principle of Access and Correction in the Report of the Group of Experts (though not verbatim). Importantly, the 2014 Privacy Bill incorporates the recommendation from the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy that prohibits access to personal data if it will affect the privacy rights of another individual.
  • Disclosure of Information: The principle of ‘Disclosure of Information’ in the Privacy Bill 2014 is similar to the principle of ‘Disclosure of Information’ as recommended in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy (though not verbatim).  As recommended this principle requires that personal data be disclosed to third parties only if informed consent has been taken from the individual and the third party is bound the adhere to all relevant and applicable privacy principles.
  • Security: The principle of security in the 2014 Privacy Bill reflects the principle of Security recommended in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy and requires that personal data be secured through reasonable security safeguards against unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, de-anonymization or unauthorized disclosure.
  • Openness: The principle of Openness in the 2014 Privacy Protection Bill is similar to the principle of Openness recommended in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy in that it requires data controllers to make available to all individuals in an intelligible form, using clear and plain language, the practices, procedures, and policies, and systems that are in place to ensure compliance with the privacy principles. The principle in the 2014 Privacy Bill differs from the recommendation in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy in that it does not require data controllers to take necessary steps to implement practices, policies, and procedures in a manner proportional to the scale, scope, and sensitivity to the data they collect.
  • Accountability: The principle of Accountability in the 2014 Privacy Bill is similar to the principle of Accountability as recommended in the Report of the Group of Experts as both require that the data controller is accountable for compliance with the national Privacy Principles.

Application to interception and access, video and audio recording, personal identifiers, bodily and genetic material: The Privacy Bill 2014 incorporates the recommendations from the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy and specifies the way in which the National Privacy Principles will apply to the interception and access of communications, video and audio recording, and personal identifiers. But the 2014 Privacy Bill does not specify the application of the National Privacy Principles to bodily and genetic material (though this information is included in the definition of sensitive personal information).

With respect to the installation and operation of video recording equipment in a public space, the 2014 Privacy Bill requires that video recording equipment may only be used in accordance with a prescribed procedure and for a legitimate purpose that is proportionate to the objective for which it was installed. Furthermore, individuals cannot use video recording equipment for the purpose of identifying an individual, monitoring his personal particulars, or revealing in public his personal information. The provisions in the Bill that speak to storage, processing, retention, security, and disclosure of personal data apply to the installation and use of video recording equipment. As a note the 2014 Privacy Bill carves out an exception for law enforcement and government intelligence agencies in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, security or the strategic, scientific or economic interest of India.

With respect to the application of the National Privacy Principles to the interception of communications, the 2014 Privacy Bill lays down a regime for the interception of communications and specifies that the principles of notice, choice, consent, access and correction, and openness will apply to the interception of communications when authorised.

With respect to Personal Identifiers, the 2014 Privacy Bill notes that the principles of notice, choice, and consent will not apply to the collection of personal identifiers by the government. Additionally, the government will not be obliged to use any personal identifier only for the limited purpose for which the personal identifier was collected, provided that the use is in conformance with the other National Privacy Principles.

Additional Protection for Sensitive Personal Data

The Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy broadly recommends that sensitive personal data be afforded additional protection and existing definitions of sensitive personal data should be harmonised. The 2014 Privacy Bill incorporates these recommendations by defining sensitive personal data as data relating to physical and mental health including medical history, biometric, bodily or genetic information; criminal convictions;  password, banking credit and financial data; narco analysis or polygraph test data, sexual orientation. The 2014 Privacy Bill also requires authorization from the Data Protection Authority for the collection and processing of sensitive personal data and defines circumstances of when this authorization would not be required including:  collection or processing of such data is authorized by any other law for the time being in force; such data has already been made public as a result of steps taken by the data subject; collection and processing of such data is made in connection with any legal proceedings by an order of the competent court; such data relating to physical or mental health or medical history of an individual is collected and processed by a medical professional, if such collection and processing is necessary for medical care and health of that individual; such data relating to biometrics, bodily or genetic material, physical or mental health, prior criminal convictions or financial credit history is processed by the employer of an individual for the purpose of and in connection with the employment of that individual; such data relating to physical or mental health or medical history is collected an processed by an insurance company, if such processing is necessary for the purpose of and in connection with the insurance policy of that individual; such data relating to criminal conviction, biometrics and genetic is processed and collected by law enforcement agencies; such data regarding credit, banking and financial details of an individual is processed by a specific user under the Credit Information Companies (Regulation) Act, 2005; such data is processed by schools or other education institutions in connection with imparting of education to an individual;  such data is collected or processed by the government Intelligence agencies in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, security or the strategic, scientific or economic interest of India,  the authority has, by a general or specified order permitted the processing of such data for specific purpose and is limited to the extent of such permission. The 2014 Privacy Bill also prohibits additional transactions from being performed using sensitive personal information unless free consent was obtained for such transaction.

Privacy Officers

The Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy recommends that Privacy Officers be established at the organizational level for overseeing the processing of personal data and compliance with the Act. This recommendation has been incorporated in the 2014 Privacy Bill, which establishes Privacy Officers at the organizational level.

Co-regulatory Framework

The Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy recommends that a system of co-regulation be established, where industry levels self regulatory organizations develop privacy norms, which are in turn approved and enforced by the Privacy Commissioner. The 2014 Privacy Bill puts in place a similar co-regulatory framework where industry level self regulatory organizations can develop norms which will be turned into regulations and enforced by the Data Protection Authority. If a sector does not develop norms, the Data Protection Authority can develop norms for the specific sector.

Recommendations in the Report that are not in the Bill

Scope

The Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy recommends that the scope of any privacy framework extends to all individuals, all data processed in India, and all data originating from India.  The 2014 Privacy Bill differs from these recommendations by extending the right to privacy to all residents of India, while remaining silent on whether or not the scope of the legislation extends to all data processed in India and all data originating in India. Despite this, the 2014 Bill does specify that any organization that processes or deals with data of an Indian resident, but does not have a place of business within India, must establish a ‘representative resident’ in India who will be responsible for compliance with the Act.

Exceptions

The Report of the Group of Experts recommends the following as exceptions to the right to privacy:

  1. National security
  2. Public order
  3. Disclosure in the public interest
  4. Prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of criminal offenses
  5. Protection of the individual and rights and freedoms of others

The Report further clarifies that any exception must be qualified and measured against the principles of proportionality, legality, and necessary in a democratic state.

The Privacy Bill 2014 reflects only the exception of  “protection of the individual rights and freedoms of others”. The exceptions as defined in the 2014 Bill are:

  1. Sovereignty, integrity or security of India or
  2. Strategic, scientific or economic interest of India; or
  3. Preventing incitement to the commission of any offence; or
  4. Prevention of public disorder; or
  5. The investigation of any crime; or
  6. Protection of rights and freedoms others; or
  7. Friendly relations with foreign states; or
  8. Any other legitimate purpose mentioned in this Act.

Instead of qualifying these exceptions with the principles of proportionality, legality, and necessary in a democratic state – as recommended in the Report of Group of Experts on Privacy, the 2014 Privacy Bill qualifies that any restriction must be adequate and not excessive to the objectives it aims to achieve.

Constitution of Infringement of Privacy

The Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy specifies that the publication of personal data for artistic and journalistic purposes in the public interest, disclosure under the Right to Information Act, 2005, and the use of personal data for household purposes should not constitute an infringement of privacy. In contrast the 2014 Privacy Bill specifies that the processing of personal data by an individual purely for his personal or household use, the disclosure of information under the provisions of the Right to information Act, 2005, and any other action specifically exempted under the Act will not constitute an infringement of privacy.

The Data Protection Authority

The Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy recommends the establishment of Privacy Commissioners (and places emphasis on Privacy Commissioner rather than Data Protection Authority) at the Central and Regional level. The Privacy Commissioner should  be of a rank no lower than a retired Supreme Court Judge at the Central level and a retired High Court Judge at the regional level. The privacy commissioner should have the power to receive and investigate class action complaints and investigative powers of the commissioner should include the power to examine and call for documents, examine witnesses, and take a case to court if necessary. The Commissioner should be able to investigate data controllers on receiving complaints or suo moto, and can order privacy impact assessments. Organizations should not be able to appeal fines levied by the Privacy Commissioner, but individuals can appeal a decision of the Privacy Commissioner to the court. The Commissioner should also have broad oversight with respect to interception/access, audio & video recordings, use of personal identifiers, and the use of bodily or genetic material. The Privacy Commissioner will also have the responsibility of approving codes of conduct developed by the industry level SRO’s.

Differing from the recommendations in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy, the 2014 Privacy Bill establishes a Data Protection Authority (as opposed to a Privacy Commissioner) at the Central level. Instead of creating regional Data Protection Authorities, the 2014 Privacy Bill allows for the Central Government to decide where other offices of the Data Protection Authority will be located. Furthermore, the 2014 Privacy Bill does not specify a qualification for the Data Protection Authority and instead establishes a selection committee to choose and appoint a Data Protection Authority. This committee is comprised of a Cabinet Secretary, Secretary to the Department of Personnel and Training, Secretary to the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, and two experts of eminence from relevant fields that will be nominated by the Central Government.

The 2014 Privacy Bill does not specify that fines ordered by the Data Protection Authority will be binding for organizations, but does allow individuals to appeal decisions of the Data Protection Authority to the Appellate Tribunal. Differing from the recommendations in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy,  the 2014 Privacy Bill gives the Data Protection Authority the power to call upon any data controller at any time to furnish in writing information or explanation relating to its affairs,  and receive and investigate complaints about alleged violations of privacy of individuals in respect of matters covered under this Act, conduct investigations and issue appropriate orders or directions to the parties concerned. Furthermore, the 2014 Privacy Bill does not specify that the Data Protection Authority will carry out privacy impact assessments, but the Authority can conduct audits of any or all personal data controlled by a data controller, can investigate data breaches, investigate in complaint received, and adjudicate on a dispute arising between data controllers or data subjects and data controllers.  Unlike the recommendations in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy, it does not seem that the Data Protection Authority will play an overseeing role with respect to interception, the use of video recording equipment, personal identifiers, and the use of bodily and genetic material.

Tribunal and System of Complaints

Differing from the recommendation in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy, which specified that a Tribunal should not be established as under the Information Technology Act as there is the risk that the institutions will not have the capacity to rule on a broad right to privacy, the 2014 Privacy Bill does establish a Tribunal under the Information Technology Act. The Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy also recommended that complaints be taken to the district level, high level, and Supreme Court – whereas the 2014 Privacy Bill allows individuals to appeal decisions from the Tribunal only to a High Court. Similar to the recommendations of the Report of the Group of Experts, the 2014 Privacy Bill has in place Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms at the level of the industry self regulatory organization.  The 2014 Privacy Bill also specifies that individuals can seek civil remedies and leaves the issuance of compensation for privacy harm to be from a Court. Unlike the recommendations in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy, the 2014 Privacy Bill does not specify that the Data Protection Authority will be able to take a case to the court.

Penalties and Offenses

The Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy did not provide specific recommendations for types of offences and penalties, but did suggest that offenses similar to those spelled out in the UK Data Protection Act and Australian Privacy Act be adopted – namely non-compliance with the privacy principles, unlawful collection, processing, sharing/disclosure, access, and use of personal data, and obstruction of the privacy commissioner. The 2014 Privacy Bill does create offenses for the unlawful collection, processing, sharing/disclosure, access, and use of personal data, but does not create offenses for obstruction of the privacy commissioner or broad non-compliance with the privacy principles.

Conclusion

The Centre for Internet and Society welcomes the similarities between the recommendations in the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy and the leaked 2014 Privacy Bill, but would recommend that on areas where there are differences, particularly in the scope of the Privacy Bill and the powers and functions of the Data Protection Authority, the 2014 Bill be brought in line with the recommendations from the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy.

In the upcoming post, we will be comparing the text of the leaked 2014 Privacy Bill to international best practices and standards.


References

  1. Leaked Privacy Bill: 2014 vs. 2011
  2. Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy

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