'FB-Jio deal's data safety norms concerns unfounded'

FB-Jio deal a positive; concerns around flouting of net neutrality, data safety norms unfounded: BIF

The pact between the two sides to cross-leverage JioMart and WhatsApp is also clearly aimed at facilitating new business opportunities by enabling a seamless digital connectivity experience between the consumer and local businesses, shops, kirana stores, BIF noted.

 Facebook's decision to invest USD 5.7 billion (about Rs 43,574 crore) in Jio Platforms is a big positive for India's digital services sector, and any apprehension that net neutrality or data protection norms may be flouted or consumer interest harmed, is "erroneous and far-fetched", industry body BIF said on Monday.

The announcement, coming as it does, in the midst of the gloom of the global coronavirus pandemic and its resultant economic fallout, underlines resilience and strong outlook for the sector, despite the trying times faced by the industry presently, said the Broadband India Forum (BIF), a policy forum and think-tank.

"This partnership between Facebook and Jio could be especially beneficial to over 50 million micro, small and medium businesses, over 100 million farmers, about 30 million small merchants and many millions of small and medium enterprises in the informal sector across India,” BIF statement said.

The pact between the two sides to cross-leverage JioMart and WhatsApp is also clearly aimed at facilitating new business opportunities by enabling a seamless digital connectivity experience between the consumer and local businesses, shops, kirana stores, BIF noted.

"In doing so, the collaboration is expected to be suited to help people and businesses operate more effectively in the growing digital economy, by bringing together an efficient mechanism for purchase and delivery of products or procurement of services at the local levels, whereby consumers will be provided with convenience, and the small businesses can benefit through efficiency of scale and reach," it said.

This is especially relevant in the current circumstances, where the COVID-19 crisis has constrained consumers' options, severely impacted the supply chain and normal business practices, and necessitated added innovative measures from the smaller businesses to cater to the essential needs of the consumers.

BIF noted that while there are apprehensions in certain quarters that net neutrality and data protection norms may be flouted and consumer interest harmed, it believes that such concerns are "erroneous, far-fetched and not based on facts".

Net neutrality rules are now unambiguously written into the telecom service providers' licences, it said.

"Secondly, the data protection framework to guard consumer interests is under process and is shortly expected to come out as a legislated Act. Hence, the second fear is also unfounded," it added.

BIF stated that its entire membership, which includes both Jio and Facebook, is committed to the cause of 'Broadband for All' involving the proliferation of affordable high-quality broadband and involving the principles of liberalisation and competition, as well as adherence to the regulations as regards net neutrality, data protection, and other norms.

BIF President T V Ramachandran said the latest investment decision will further boost India's attractiveness in the global investment community, especially in the digital domain.

"The critical importance of this sector has been amply demonstrated by the major role it has played, and continues to play in these difficult times to mitigate the ill-effects of the pandemic, while maintaining near-normalcy in the country," Ramachandran added.