Public Administration Mains 2018 : Model Question and Answer - 82

(Public Administration Paper I / Chapter: Accountability and Control)

(Current Based) Question: India does not have a legal framework for data protection? Comment. (15 Marks/250Words)

Model Answer:

The Cambridge Analytica episode highlights two key challenges – the use and abuse of data and the scope for external or foreign influence in democratic processes. Both these challenges are being exacerbated by India’s own legal frameworks, or lack therefore, not Cambridge Analytica or Facebook.

The first point that needs to be noted is that what Cambridge Analytica has been accused of doing – creating profiles based on individual data and using that to influence individual electoral choices – is in fact happening on the Internet every day. The business model of the Internet revolves around the collection and monetisation of individual data – what is now frequently referred to as ‘surveillance economy.’ Targeted fake news is at play everyday on WhatsApp chats across India, even without Cambridge Analytica.\

The real issue is that India does not have a legal framework for data protection. Certainly, any data protection law will come with its own challenges – from issues of meaningful consent to regulating transnational data flows. But, it will nonetheless create a vital and necessary framework against which rights and responsibilities can be articulated, and digressions thereof evaluated. A draft framework is currently under review; to be effective, it will have to hinge on more than just informed consent to mechanisms for holding governments and private sector accountable for the misuse of data.\

The second issue is about the role that external actors can play in steering democratic processes. The Cambridge Analytica episode highlights the invisible yet pervasive ways in which public opinion can be shaped in a digital age and transform political destinies. The lesson to take away is the need for more stringent regulations around election campaigning. (Total Words- 274)

Valuable inputs from The Indian Express Opinion: ‘What Cambridge Analytica does is the norm, not an aberration’ by Urvashi Aneja

(Linkages: Data Protection and Legal Framework, Data Protection and External Influence, Data Protection and Misuse of Data)

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