'Data is not Oil': Facebook urges Indian government to allow free flow of data

'Data is not Oil'; Facebook urges Indian government to allow free flow of data
Representational Image. Photo: Reuters
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New Delhi: Facebook Inc on Thursday said that countries including India should allow the free flow of data across borders instead of attempting to hoard it as a finite commodity within national boundaries.

Facebook Vice-President, Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg said data sharing is crucial for national security as India right now finds itself “locked out” of major global data-sharing initiatives aimed to clamp down on serious crime and terrorism.

The comment comes in the wake of India's richest businessman Mukesh Ambani's earlier statement that data is the new oil as he propagated the protection of Indian users' data generated through use of internet as well as social media platforms, saying the country's data must be controlled and owned by Indian people and not by corporates, especially global corporations.

India should create a new template for the internet that "respects the rights of individuals to choose what happens to their data; one that encourages competition and innovation; and one that remains open and accessible for everyone," Clegg said.

The value of data, he said, comes not from "hoarding it" or trading it like a finite commodity, but from allowing it to flow freely and encouraging the innovation that comes from that free flow of data - the algorithms and the services and the intelligence that can be built on top of it.

"It is that innovation that has the potential to bring much greater wealth to India and it is that innovation that will place India, with its entrepreneurial society and its bedrock of engineering talent, at the forefront of the global internet for decades to come," he said.

Clegg said to contain data within geographical boundaries and restricting its flow outside the country would be to "turn a great ocean of innovation into a still lake."

The remarks came amid a raging debate in the country over whether data of Indians is safe with foreign companies, as the government is working on crafting data protection rules. The Reserve Bank of India last year imposed data localisation norms on foreign fintech companies to locally store the data of Indians.

Facebook, which is looking at launching payment services through its unit WhatsApp in India, and global firms such as Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, Google and Amazon had sought relaxation in the regulation on data localisation.

India is home to 400 million WhatsApp users and more than 328 million Facebook users.

India, he said, could follow the Chinese model, further entrenching the fracturing of the global internet.

"Between these two great nations, China and India, a third of the world's population would be detached from the rest of the global internet and a great precedent would be set for other nations. And in a few short years there may not be such a thing as a global internet at all," he said.

"And some countries would use India as a precedent to justify even more restrictive laws, cutting their citizens off from the benefits of an open internet," he said.

"Or instead, India can choose to work with its natural allies in the open, democratic world to help shape an internet that respects rights of individuals; promotes competition and innovation, and remains open and accessible for all."

(With inputs from PTI)

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