New Delhi: The government has asked the task force on e-commerce to explore ways to prevent Indian data from being controlled or mined by entities outside the country as it debates a national policy on e-commerce

The commerce ministry has posed at least 80 questions to the nine subgroups of the task force including cross-border transfer of information by electronic means, data protection, location of computing facilities, taxation, contours of future technology such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, net neutrality and foreign direct investment

In April, the government had constituted a task force headed by commerce secretary to deliberate a national policy on e-commerce. 

The government wants the policy to facilitate “continued Indian ownership of Indian startups” and a regulatory regime to enable minority shareholders who are founders/promoters to run and have control over the company, and promote a level-playing field. 

“Cross-border data flows will be critical because we expect two diverse set of views on the matter, especially on localisation,” said an official who is part of the think tank. 

On data protection, the ministry has asked the task force to look at elements that are not being considered by the Justice Srikrishna Committee on data protection. “Justice Srikrishna Committee report will be part of the think tank’s study and our recommendations would be in the same direction as theirs,” said another official in the know of the development. 

The government has also sought clarity on the impact of global practices on data protection such as EU GDPR and the EU-US Privacy Shield on India’s position in future.

The issues came up last week when the subgroups met for three days and the solutions are likely to be discussed in the next meeting on July 4.

Ownership of digital platforms The government plans to promote investment by large Indian firms in new domestic startups, a single-window mechanism for getting clearances for all ecommerce companies and is studying oligopolies in operating systems, mobile apps and the marketplace in order to encourage local e-commerce companies through the national policy on digital trade. 

“We have advocated ownership of digital platforms even at multilateral fora such as UNCTAD because of the control these products have on social, political and cultural systems. We need a regime that takes cognisance of the fact,” said another official. 

A member of the task force said India needs to look at data as a natural resource and default right of the data should be with the government. 

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