Google CEO Sundar Pichai has written to IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad encouraging free flow of data across borders. He said that such a step would encourage global companies to contribute to India's digital economy as well as benefit Indian start-ups looking to expand globally. In the letter dated September 5, Pichai added that Google remains firmly committed to India's growth story and shares its vision of creating a truly 'Digital India'. He also thanked Prasad for his visit to Google's Mountain View campus last month.
"Free flow of data across borders - with a focus on user privacy and security - will encourage startups to innovate and expand globally and encourage global companies to contribute to India's digital economy," he said in the letter.
Pichai also said that Google's team in India will be in touch with Prasad's office to follow up on some of the specific topics that were discussed during their meeting.
The letter comes as the government is working on a data protection framework for the country. In July, a high-level panel headed by Justice BN Srikrishna submitted its recommendations for the data protection draft bill to Prasad.
The panel suggested steps to safeguard personal information, defining obligations of data processors as well as rights of individuals. It also drew up penalties in case of violations. The government has asked citizens for feedback on the draft bill by September 30.
The areas covered by the recommendations include consent, what comprises personal data including sensitive personal data, exceptions that can be granted, grounds for processing data, storage restrictions for personal data, individual rights and right to be forgotten. It also imposes conditions on the cross-border transfer of personal data.
The draft suggests that every data fiduciary in India shall ensure the storage of at least one serving copy of personal data on a server or data centre located in India. The government can notify certain categories of personal data as critical personal data that would have to be stored in a data centre located within India.
The recommendations, which will have an impact across sectors especially healthcare and financial services, have met with criticism from various quarters.
Recently, industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) had expressed concern around the bill, saying certain clauses around data localisation and information processing are "restrictive" and will hurt Indian start-ups. It had also warned that other countries, where Indian start-ups are expanding to, may retaliate by demanding reciprocal data localisation.
Besides, data localisation also forces Indian start-ups to look for more expensive and inefficient local solutions, IAMAI had said.
(With PTI inputs; edited by Anwesha Madhukalya)