New Delhi: Earlier this month, search giant Google decided to help public health officials in India as well as other countries keep track of people movement in the wake of the Covid-19 virus outbreak. The initiative, Google’s own, was done with a belief that “open data can benefit the world at large”, its chief privacy officer told ET . It was undertaken through Covid-19 Community Mobility Reports which capture the percentage change in traffic and movement across public places such as parks, transit stations and grocery stores. Enright said Google has urged policymakers to keep sharing of such anonymous data with the governments “voluntary”, so as to maintain user privacy and the intellectual property rights of organisations. Mountain View, California-based Enright’s concerns also stem from a provision in India’s draft data protection Bill which makes it mandatory for companies to share public, community and anonymous data of users with the government in return for a fee. “We urge policymakers to promote voluntary data sharing mechanisms with adequate privacy, intellectual property protections and business confidentiality safeguards,” Enright said. Enright also expressed concern over some of the clauses in the Bill and proposed amendments to the IT intermediary guidelines that require social media companies to compulsorily verify the identity of users through their mobile numbers. The identity verification requirement, while intended to provide strong protection to users, may have an “inverse” impact if they actually result in companies being compelled to collect more personal information in an effort to comply. Taking the case of the data protection Bill, currently being studied by a Joint Parliamentary Committee, Enright urged the government to come up with regulations that are interoperable and allow free flow of data, which can otherwise have the “unintended consequence of stifling innovation and creating a headwind to economic growth” within a given jurisdiction. Enright, who has been with Google for the last ten years, also said legal activity across the world on framing regulations has been unprecedented.
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