FPF announces appointment of Malavika Raghavan as Senior Fellow for India
The Future of Privacy Forum announces the appointment of Malavika Raghavan as Senior Fellow for India, expanding our Global Privacy team to one of the key jurisdictions for the future of privacy and data protection law.
Malavika is a thought leader and a lawyer working on interdisciplinary research, focusing on the impacts of digitisation on the lives of lower-income individuals. Her work since 2016 has focused on the regulation and use of personal data in service delivery by the Indian State and private sector actors. She has founded and led the Future of Finance Initiative for Dvara Research (an Indian think tank) in partnership with the Gates Foundation from 2016 until 2020, anchoring its research agenda and policy advocacy on emerging issues at the intersection of technology, finance and inclusion. Research that she led at Dvara Research was cited by the India’s Data Protection Committee in its White Paper as well as its final report with proposals for India’s draft Personal Data Protection Bill, with specific reliance placed on such research on aspects of regulatory design and enforcement. See Malavika’s full bio here.
“We are delighted to welcome Malavika to our Global Privacy team. For the following year, she will be our adviser to understand the most significant developments in privacy and data protection in India, from following the debate and legislative process of the Data Protection Bill and the processing of non-personal data initiatives, to understanding the consequences of the publication of the new IT Guidelines. India is one of the most interesting jurisdictions to follow in the world, for many reasons: the innovative thinking on data protection regulation, the potentially groundbreaking regulation of non-personal data and the outstanding number of individuals whose privacy and data protection rights will be envisaged by these developments, which will test the power structures of digital regulation and safeguarding fundamental rights in this new era”, said Dr. Gabriela Zanfir-Fortuna, Global Privacy lead at FPF.
We have asked Malavika to share her thoughts for FPF’s blog on what are the most significant developments in privacy and digital regulation in India and about India’s role in the global privacy and digital regulation debate.
FPF: What are some of the most significant developments in the past couple of years in India in terms of data protection, privacy, digital regulation?
Malavika Raghavan: “Undoubtedly, the turning point for the privacy debate India was the 2017 judgement of the Indian Supreme Court in Justice KS Puttaswamy v Union of India. The judgment affirmed the right to privacy as a constitutional guarantee, protected by Part III (Fundamental Rights) of the Indian Constitution. It was also regenerative, bringing our constitutional jurisprudence into the 21st century by re-interpreting timeless principles for the digital age, and casting privacy as a prerequisite for accessing other rights—including the right to life and liberty, to freedom of expression and to equality—given the ubiquitous digitisation of human experience we are witnessing today.
Overnight, Puttaswamy also re-balanced conversations in favour of privacy safeguards to make these equal priorities for builders of digital systems, rather than framing these issues as obstacles to innovation and efficiency. In addition, it challenged the narrative that privacy is an elite construct that only wealthy or privileged people deserve— since many litigants in the original case that had created the Puttaswamy reference were from marginalised groups. Since then, a string of interesting developments have arisen as new cases are reassessing the impact of digital technology on individuals in India, for e.g. the boundaries case of private sector data sharing (such as between Whatsapp and Facebook), or the State’s use of personal data (as in the case concerning Aadhaar, our national identification system) among others.
Puttaswamy also provided fillip for a big legislative development, which is the creation of an omnibus data protection law in India. A bill to create this framework was proposed by a Committee of Experts under the chairmanship of Justice Srikrishna (an ex-Supreme Court judge), which has been making its way through ministerial and Parliamentary processes. There’s a large possibility that this law will be passed by the Indian parliament in 2021! Definitely a big development to watch.
FPF: How do you see India’s role in the global privacy and digital regulation debate?
Malavika Raghavan: “India’s strategy on privacy and digital regulation will undoubtedly have global impact, given that India is home to 1/7th of the world’s population! The mobile internet revolution has created a huge impact on our society with millions getting access to digital services in the last couple of decades. This has created nuanced mental models and social norms around digital technologies that are slowly being documented through research and analysis.
The challenge for policy makers is to create regulations that match these expectations and the realities of Indian users to achieve reasonable, fair regulations. As we have already seen from sectoral regulations (such as those from our Central Bank around cross border payments data flows) such regulations also have huge consequences for global firms interacting with Indian users and their personal data.
In this context, I think India can have the late-mover advantage in some ways when it comes to digital regulation. If we play our cards right, we can take the best lessons from the experience of other countries in the last few decades and eschew the missteps. More pragmatically, it seems inevitable that India’s approach to privacy and digital regulation will also be strongly influenced by the Government’s economic, geopolitical and national security agenda (both internationally and domestically).
One thing is for certain: there is no path-dependence. Our legislators and courts are thinking in unique and unexpected ways that are indeed likely to result in a fourth way (as described by the Srikrishna Data Protection Committee’s final report), compared to the approach in the US, EU and China.”
If you have any questions about engaging with The Future of Privacy Forum on Global Privacy and Digital Policymaking contact Dr. Gabriela Zanfir-Fortuna, Senior Counsel, at [email protected].