India’s IT Minister of State, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, wrote a very popular tweet recently. It was in response to someone who said that they had gone to one of the bookstores at the Delhi airport to buy a pack of gum, and the store refused to sell them anything if they did not give their mobile number. Now, we’ve also faced similar issues. Last year, MP Mahua Moitra had also pointed out the fact that Decathlon refused to service her if she did not give them her mobile number. And this is what’s happening at the back end, right? So these mobile numbers are being collected. People are being profiled on the basis of their purchasing habits. Now, Rajeev Chandrasekhar made a great point that once the data protection bill comes out, they will not be able to collect your mobile number and tie you into all sorts of other information that someone has collected about you. The data protection bill will perhaps limit the purpose for which data is being collected. And if collecting a mobile number is not necessary for the purpose, then it will not be allowed. Perhaps if a mobile number is being collected at the airport for security purposes, then they might still be able to collect it.
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But Mr. Chandrasekhar forgot to mention one really important point, which is that the data protection bill, at least in its latest form, contains something called ‘deemed consent’ for information that is already public. This means that our information, let’s say whatever we made public on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, can also be taken by algorithms and third parties, and used to profile us. Just because we made something public doesn’t mean that we allowed others to copy it. Perhaps Mr. Chandrasekhar ought to tweet about addressing the issues with deemed consent as well.
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