[Answered] In the light of the draft Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill, 2022, what are the issues in India’s approach to data protection for minors?

Introduction: Contextual introduction.

Body: Write some issues in India’s approach to data protection for minors.

Conclusion: Write a way forward.

The draft Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill, 2022 currently provides for mandatory parental consent for all data processing activities by children, defined as any person aged under 18 years.

Issues in India’s approach to data protection for minors:

  • Mandating parental consent will curtail children’s access to services and limit their ability to self-explore. In a country with low digital literacy, where parents in fact often rely on their children to help them navigate the Internet, this is an ineffective approach to keep children safe online.
  • It does not take into account the “best interests of the child”, a standard originating in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, to which India is a signatory.
  • Each platform will have to obtain ‘verifiable parental consent’ in the case of minors. Whatever form verifiability takes, all platforms will have to now manage significantly more personal data than before, and citizens will be at greater risk of harms such as data breaches, identity thefts, etc.
  • The Bill does not factor in how teenagers use various Internet platforms for self-expression and personal development and how central it is to the experience of adolescents these days.
  • Moreover, the popular demand by several activists to reduce the upper age limit used to define a child from 18 years to 16 years or 13 years has also been ignored. A 17-year-old would have to ask for their parents’ consent just like a 5-year-old for sharing their personal data if the government does not prescribe any remedies.
  • The tough compliance burdens may also disincentivise businesses and other organisations from offering useful services to children, like career counselling and mental and physical health awareness.

We must design a policy in India that balances the safety and the agency of children online. We should not put the onus of keeping our young safe only on parents, but instead it should make it a society-wide obligation.

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