Amid the Indian government's call to store data locally, experts here said on Friday that the consumers should be free to choose jurisdiction in which data can be stored and it might not be prudent to force data localisation.
According to Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, Country Manager, The Software Alliance, consumers should be free to choose jurisdiction in which data can be stored, and "different options could appear as a drop down menu to enable consumer choice."
Shagufta Kamran from the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), a non-proft, observed that Indian information technology and enabled industry has traditionally benefited from cross-border data flow and it might not be a good idea to restrict such flows.
Amitayu Sengupta from the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) pointed out that setting up data centres is resource intensive and requires significant capitalisation and consequently has been avoided in the past.
The experts were speaking at a roundtable organised by the advocacy group Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International. It saw participation from various stakeholders, including government, industry, consumer groups, academia and data protection experts.
According to Dr. Usha Ramanathan, Legal Researcher and Consumer Rights Activist, basis for government to demand data localisation is not clear as the government is unlikely to provide heightened security and data protection standards to consumers.
"Mandatory data localisation provisions are likely to create artificial distinctions between large and small businesses and adversely impact the latter," pointed out Nikhil Pahwa, Founder, Medianama, adding that India does not have necessary infrastructure to support large-scale data centres in the country.
According to GV Srinivas, Joint Secretary, Cyber Diplomacy, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the data protection bill by Srikrishna Committee has made genuine efforts to be sensitive to consumer rights.
"Access to important data by law enforcement agencies is likely to be made easier under the proposed regime," he said, adding that the industry will need to adjust to increased cost of data mirroring mandate as its greater benefits are likely to follow.
Ashim Sanyal from VOICE said data localisation is anti-consumer from the point of view of quality and cost of services and it is unlikely to help in data protection.