The era of free data is over — the law is coming for Big Tech

Source– The post is based on the article “The era of free data is over — the law is coming for Big Tech” published in The Indian Express on 20th December 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Awareness in the field of IT

Relevance– Issues related to emerging digital space

News– The article explains the increasing relevance of data across the world and efforts to regulate it. It also explains the Indian scenario.

Which are major developments across the world for regulation of data?

The American Data Privacy and Protection Act promises to radically transform the US data privacy and protection landscape. Data will only be collected to achieve the allowed purposes. It will also ban the use of “sensitive” data like health information and geolocation.

GDPR is another law for regulation data. UNCTAD reports that 80% of all countries in the world have data protection and privacy legislation or are putting one into effect.

Why are countries falling to control and manage data?

It is only lately that data has been thought of as a valuable resource as well as a potent weapon.

Historically, the greatest wealth has been created by harnessing and exploiting natural resources. It was land in ancient times. Timber was the next logical resource to be exploited. Then came oil. Now, data is the new oil. The future world powers will be created on the back of data.

How countries across the world are recognising the importance of data?

China is leveraging data and AI. Vladimir Putin has famously remarked that “the nation that leads in AI and data will lead the world”.

The US is waging war by choking off chips and technologies that enable AI from their geopolitical foes.

Much like oil, data has been used as a weapon too – influencing elections, defrauding investors, faking news.

What is the scenario in the case of India?

The Indian situation is particularly interesting. India and China are perhaps the only two large countries where digitisation and data have happened at “population scale”.

The big difference in India is that it has happened with large government intervention . The digital transformation of the West, and even China, are largely private enterprise-led.

The Indian digitisation story has been breath-taking in its scope of scale: Digital Public Infrastructure Aadhaar, UPI and the upcoming National Health Stack and the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), built on the India stack have begun to transform its society and economy.

The Indian government is treating these as Digital Public Goods. The scale and richness of consumption, generation of data is massive. There is an immense scope to leverage this.

The Indian approach to regulating data is three-pronged: The Data Protection Bill, the forthcoming Telecom Bill and a Digital India Act to replace IT Act.

What can be the possible outcomes of these developments?

The era of “free data” is over. The Big Tech companies will have to tweak their business models.

There will be a patchwork of laws across the globe. Multinational companies dealing with data will find it very cumbersome to work across all of them.

Three, some law is better than no law. There are hopes of more consumer protection, transparency and privacy protection than before. However, it will continue to be an arms race. Governments will follow a piecemeal approach with data entities. These entities will try to stamp out new ways to beat new regulations.

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