This week IFF filed RTIs (Right to Information Requests) with the Ministry of Electronics and IT for the consultation on the Draft Data Protection Bill. This was to support the ongoing community effort to ensure a strong, user centric privacy law in India. We were spurred into action noticing that newspaper reports indicated only 400 responses were submitted, and un-named ministry officials indicated most of them were from companies, government departments and industry bodies.
We started wondering whether the comments sent by internet users, academics and technologists, civil and digital rights organisations would even be considered.
This has lead us to file two separate RTIs:
- The first is to know who all sent their comments, and what were these comments. After all, this is a public consultation and there is an existing practice (like with the TRAI) to pro-actively publish all inputs it receives. This will allow us to be better placed to know and respond to any industry lobbying for dilution of the privacy protections in India.
- The second RTI is to know who (if anyone) besides the ministry is reviewing the comments and drafting the law. Given the lack of transparency, flawed composition of the expert committee that produced the Draft Data Protection Bill. Much of this background is contained in several representations made by Rethink Aadhaar and the National Campaign for People's Right to Information.
We are aware that we cannot just rely on seeking information and disclosures. We need to do much more. In the coming months we hope to pick up pace, respond with greater agility and strengthen our collective efforts to protect privacy.