Indians Call For More Stringent Data Protection Laws

The government is India is facing calls to establish better cybersecurity laws to protect consumers’ data after fears have crept up that Reliance Jio, the telecom startup in India, suffered a major data leak.

According to a report in Reuters announcing the news, Jio denied the data leak took place, saying the names, telephone numbers and email addresses of Jio users that showed up on Magicpak, a website, were unauthentic. Its parent Reliance Industries said customers’ data was safe and protected.

But at the same time that it was issuing reassurances, Jio filed a complaint claiming unlawful access to its computer systems, reported Reuters. That discrepancy has led Indians to call for better laws for data protection for consumers.  

“It raises questions of security and accountability,” said Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), a research organization, in the report. “A rule to report breaches exists, but it is unenforceable. It says you’re not liable if you’re following reasonable security practices. What ‘reasonable’ means is not defined.”

Supporters of stronger data protection laws in India said that countries that have stronger cybersecurity laws on the books would have started an inquiry into what happened with Reliance Jio. They point to the data breach last week at Verizon. Verizon quickly responded with an explanation of what went down, how it occurred and how many customers’ data privacy it impacted.

“India is at a nascent stage. For good norms in Asia, look to Singapore. It’s been praised for not having cybersecurity issues by the UN,” Srinivas Kodali, an independent security researcher, said in the same Reuters report.

The report noted that in May there were two data privacy breaches of Indian companies with the records of 17 million Zomato customers being compromised. In another breach, as many as 135 million of India’s Aadhaar numbers had been stolen from government databases and placed online. Aadhaar numbers are similar to social security numbers.