Data Monetisation Policy

News: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s proposal to monetise data collected at the central level has data policy and other experts divided.
Backgrounder to this policy
• The idea of monetising citizens’ data for greater public good was first floated by the government in the Economic Survey of 2018-19. It had noted that since such data is generated and belongs to the people, it should be used for the people. The survey had also noted that private sector could be granted access to “select databases” for commercial use.
India Data Accessibility and Use Policy, 2022
• The data, which has been collected by the central government and undergone some value addition be allowed to be sold for some price. The draft of the policy suggests new framework for identifying “high value data-set” on the basis of the data’s degree of importance in the market.
• The draft has also suggested setting up of a central India Data Office will be created under MeitY.
• All the central government’s line ministries will have to form their respective Data Management Unit, which will be headed by a Chief Data Officer. These chief data officers along with the India Data Officer will together form the IDC, which will decide on the policy matters of data accessibility and its usage.
• It will be the broad umbrella to help respective central or state government ministries and departments “assess and optimally manage” the risks associated with the release and sharing of such data.
Significance of the move
• The thought process to consider non personal data as community or national resource, in itself is commendable. The core problem with the government selling citizens’ data is the revenue generation. The new policy will encourage data sharing among government departments and potentially help the investor ecosystem.
Issues flagged with the Policy
• Data monetization may happen at cost of individual privacy. The most sought-after datasets are those that contain sensitive personal data of individuals, ex. medical history, financial data. The new draft policy has been announced at a time when the country is yet to finalise the countours of a data protection law.
• The policy could also face pushback from big tech companies whose business model is based on the monetisation of large-scale data collection model. When the govt starts selling citizen data, even if anonymised, the government gets into business it making money.
• Once the govt starts making money, it’s very hard to reduce that activity or to regulate it in a manner where it is impartial to the public. There is a lack of proper standard and framework on data anonymisation leading to a possible that such data may be “reverse-engineered”.