Mukesh Ambani, chairman and MD of RIL, has said that, “India’s data must be controlled and owned by Indian people ─ and not by corporates, especially global corporations. For India to succeed in this data-driven revolution, we will have to migrate the control and ownership of Indian data back to India ─ in other words, Indian wealth back to every Indian” (sic) according to a media statement.

At the Vibrant Gujarat summit which took place from the 18-20 January, Ambani said that “we have to collectively launch a new movement against data colonisation. In this new world, data is the new oil. And data is the new wealth.”

In his Vibrant Gujarat speech, Ambani also added that Reliance had invested Rs 3 lakh crores and created about 1 million jobs in Gujarat, both of which it would double in the next 10 years. Reliance Retail also plans to launch a “commerce platform” for 12 lakh small retailers and shopkeepers in Gujarat.

Data localisation, data privacy and regulation

Ambani’s comment comes on the heels of Indian regulators introducing schemes to localise not just payments but also all digitally collected data within the country. This means that any foreign entity operating within India will have to store Indian users’ and transactional data in the country.

  • In April 2018, the RBI, mandated that all payments system operators working in India had to ensure that data related to payment systems operations be stored only in India only within 6 months. The move came into effect from October 15.
  • The draft Data Protection Bill 2018 added a layer of confusion to the matter. The bill, which was submitted to the government in July 2018, reportedly overrides all sectorial regulators and therefore all their directives. The bill requires all data fiduciaries to store a copy of users’ personal data in India and worryingly, also requires mandatory storage of ‘critical personal data’ within India only. The bill, however, fails to explicitly define ‘critical data’.

Indian companies (see here and here) have been batting for data localisation, while multiple foreign ones have either sought time or further clarifications on the matter. (See more here, here and here.)

  • Earlier this month, Truecaller announced that it had started storing all of its Indian user data locally, including payments data, “to ensure that the data of its Indian users remains secured and to provide faster and more reliable services.”
  • In September 2018, Xiaomi said that it was migrating its Indian data to local servers from servers in US and Singapore.

Read more:
#NAMAprivacy: data colonisation and regulating cross border data flows
#NAMAprivacy Localisation of Fintech Data: origins, costs, law enforcement and more
– #NAMAprivacy: BJP’s Vinit Goenka on data localisation, sovereignty, and 800 years of slavery

Read our data localisation, data protection and privacy coverage.