Need for the Parliamentary Committee on IT to broaden participation and move towards outcomes

Highlights

  • Context: The Parliamentary Committee on IT has recently published a notice for a hearing on, "‘Safeguarding citizens’ data on social/online news media platforms’" that will be held on February 11, 2019. This meeting invites representatives of Government and Twitter.
  • Broaden participation: In line with our past representations when hearings were conducted on data breaches, privacy and to review the functioning of the UIDAI we are asking for greater public participation. This includes oral depositions by experts, academics, domain specialists, technologists and civil society groups.
  • Move towards outcomes: We also indicate the need for the past hearings on these important subjects to lead towards outcomes. The mandate of the Parliamentary Committee on IT is to make recommendations to Parliment and the work and learnings gathered by depositions and submissions may perish if reports are not prepared and tabled before the next elections.

Analysis

In continuation of our letters dated May 21, 2018, April 21, 2018 and April 5, 2018 and a formal memoranda and submissions we made on June 01, 2018 we continue to engage with the Parliamentary Committee on IT. We have today written to the Chairperson, Shri Anurag Singh Thakur and all the Hon'ble Members appreciating the vital role that is played by it in informing the law making process issues of technology and human freedom.

Our letter dated February 7, 2019 to the Hon'ble Chairperson and members of the Committee on IT is available here.

In a digitally connected India the committee has assumed vital importance and held hearings on pressing controversies including, net neutrality; data protection and privacy; data breaches and the Cambridge Analytica scandal; and overviewed the functioning of the UIDAI. Its next meeting on February 11, 2019 comes after a representation of allegations of bias of social media companies, specifically Twitter. Such hearings need to be broader and involve other platforms as well. But most importantly this hearing is correctly titled as, "safeguarding citizens" and we believe citizens should play a vital role in it. We believe that public, academic, civil society groups, domain experts and specialists are a vital component of this exercise. They need to be permitted the ability to make oral submissions which are right now restricted only to representatives of Government and Twitter.

Secondly, over the course of the past three years the breadth of issues considered by the committee have been of vital public importance. However, any outcomes or recommendations which may form a report have not yet been made. As our board chair, Raman Chima has noted on the specific issue of data breaches and the Cambridge Analytica scandal,  "a final outcome of this Committee's deliberations on this important topic is also key, to ensure that Parliament remains relevant in how it seeks to protect privacy, rather than being overtaken by developments pushed by the executive and judicial branches of government."

We will continue to engage with the committee as firm believers in public victories which are possible through institutional engagement.

Documents

  • Letter dated Feb 07, 2019 [link]
  • Letter dated May 21, 2018 [link]
  • Letter dated April 21, 2018 [link]
  • Letter dated April 5, 2018 [link]

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