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Standardising privacy frameworks is critical to driving digital trade globally, says Sundar Pichai

The extent to which privacy frameworks are standardised around the world will be “very, very critical” to driving digital trade, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said at the India Ideas Summit of the US-India Business Council in Washington DC, The Hindu reports. He said that India and the US have “reasonably aligned” values around freedom and expression and a free and open internet, and thus ought to take the lead in establishing privacy frameworks “both for users to have choice and total transparency and for companies to be accountable as well”. Pichai added the free flow of information was essential for digital trade, but that better safeguards were also needed around user privacy, which people are “increasingly” and “rightfully” concerned about.

Pichai also spoke about…

Digital payments in India: Google thought India would be the best market to push the future of digital payments as it was already headed in that direction, Pichai said.

Google incubating products in India: The scale of the Indian market allows Google to develop products there before rolling them out globally, he added.

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Making phones cheaper: Android “literally powers all phones in India” and Google wants to make phones cheaper every year, he said. Google’s products played a foundational role in the establishment and growth of local cellphone makers, he further said.

What Pompeo said at the summit

On Wednesday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the USIBC (read his speech here) that the US will push for free flow of data across borders, not just to help American companies, but to protect data and secure consumers’ privacy. “And speaking of privacy, we are eager to help India establish secure communications networks – including 5G networks as well,” he added. He also said the the US was open to dialogue to resolve trade differences with India by allowing American companies more access to Indian markets. His remarks referred to a decision by US President Donald Trump to end preferential trade treatment for India from June 5 over India’s trade barriers. Pompeo is scheduled to visit New Delhi later this month, per News18.

Free trade can’t justify free flow of data: Piyush Goyal at G20

Despite allusions to shared values, Pompeo’s and Pichai’s comments were in stark contrast to those by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal at the G20 summit earlier this week. Goyal argued against using free trade to justify the free flow of data. Instead, he said, countries must have the sovereign right to use data they generate for the welfare and development of their people. 

He also said that issues of privacy and security should be given due consideration in the debate on Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT) before global rules are made on e-commerce. India registered its opposition to DFFT, but the Ministerial Statement on Trade and Digital Economy supported the principle of DFFT while recognising that “the free flow of data raises certain challenges”. DFFT, which aims to eliminate restrictions on cross-border data flow, including personal information, and storing data in foreign servers, is in direct conflict with India’s draft e-commerce policy that proposes strict regulation on cross-border data flows, locating computational facilities within India to ensure job creation, and setting up a “data authority” for issues related to sharing of community data.

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