The Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 today made a slew of recommendations in its report submitted in both houses of the Parliament. Claiming that the Information Technology Act has not ‘kept pace with the changing nature of the social media ecosystem’, the committee has pressed for an “immediate need to regulate social media”.

“Social media platforms have been designated as intermediaries in the IT Act, and the Act had not been able to regulate the social media platforms adequately because the act had not been able to keep pace with the changing nature of the social media ecosystem. The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 has a very general provision regarding the social media platforms and intermediaries,” the panel has said in the report tabled today.

“The committee, therefore, recommends that all social media platforms which do not act as intermediaries should be treated as publishers and held accountable for the content they host. A mechanism may be devised in which the social media platforms, which do not act as intermediaries, will be held responsible for the content from unverified accounts on their platforms,” the committee has said in the report.

The committee also says in the recommendations that no social media company should be allowed to operate in the country, unless the parent company handling the technology sets up an office in India. It has also called for regulatory authority for social media content.

The JPC has also called for an alternative to SWIFT mechanism of international money transfer, extensive policy on data localization, and making social media platforms that do not act as intermediaries responsible for the content published by them.

The JPC has recommended, “Data protection in the financial sector is a matter of genuine concern worldwide, particularly when through the SWIFT network, privacy has been compromised widely. Indian citizens are engaged in huge cross border payments using the same network.”

“The committee, therefore strongly recommended that an alternative indigenous financial system should be developed on the lines of similar systems elsewhere such as Ripple (U.S.), Instex (EU)—which would not only ensure privacy but also give a boost to the digital economy,” the committee says in the report.

The committee also raised concerns about the Information Technology Act and the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 aims to protect the privacy of individuals relating to their data; specify the flow and usage of personal data; create a relationship of trust between persons and entities processing the personal data, and laying down norms for social media intermediary. It also seeks to establish a Data Protection Authority of India for the aforementioned purposes.

The right to privacy is a fundamental right and it is necessary to protect personal data as an essential facet of informational privacy. The growth of the digital economy has expanded the use of data as a critical means of communication between persons. The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha on 11th December 2019.

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