Right To Privacy

IT Ministry pitches for Data Monetization Policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Data Monetization

Mains level : India Data Accessibility and Use Policy, 2022

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

Key Propositions:

  • Sale of Public Data: The data, which has been collected by the central government and undergone some value addition be allowed to be sold for some price.
  • Identifying value data: 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.
  • Establishment of India Data Office: The draft has also suggested setting up of a central India Data Office will be created under MeitY.
  1. Chief Data Officer: 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.
  2. India Data Council: 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.
  • Data sharing toolkit: 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

  • Non-personal data as national resource: The thought process to consider non personal data as community or national resource, in itself is commendable.
  • Revenue generation: The core problem with the government selling citizens’ data is the revenue generation.
  • Boosting investments: The new policy will encourage data sharing among government departments and potentially help the investor ecosystem.

Issues flagged with the Policy

  • Individual privacy: 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.
  • Absence of Data Protection Law: The new draft policy has been announced at a time when the country is yet to finalise the countours of a data protection law.
  • State interference: The policy could also face pushback from big tech companies whose business model is based on the monetisation of large-scale data collection model.
  • Political risks: When the govt starts selling citizen data, even if anonymised, the government gets into business its making money.
  • Un-regulation: Once the govt starts making money, its very hard to reduce that activity or to regulate it in a manner where it is impartial to the public.
  • Anonymisation of data: There is a lack of proper standard and framework on data anonymisation leading to a possible that such data may be “reverse-engineered”.

Way forward

  • This policy is a good intent in which the government can monetise the wide range of data it currently holds.
  • However it remains to be seen how the pricing mechanism would work.
  • It is important to understand that datasets cannot be priced uniformly, and the value of a particular dataset varies depending on the context in which it is solved.


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