Data monopolies are developing, need for regulation: Trai chief

R. S. Sharma, head of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), poses for a photograph at his office in New Delhi, India, March 16, 2018. Picture taken March 16, 2018. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Chairman R S Sharma on Tuesday said "data monopolies" are developing in the country and there is a need to bring in a set of regulations to ensure that consumer data remains safe and protected.

Sharma said, India has created a number of platforms which generate huge amount of data and cited examples like GST and UPI.

"I think that with all the activities going around that we are becoming data-rich. And therefore, we need to have policies which will ensure that ownership, privacy and security of that data," he told reporters, after the first meeting of a think-tank here on the framework for national policy on ecommerce.

He further said: "I also expressed this issue that data monopolies are developing. There are giant data players and there is a need to ensure some kind of regulation, some over arching principles are adhered to".

Other company representatives, present at the meeting, echoed similar views.

Paytm Founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma said that his company had suggested that consumer data should be hosted within the country.

"My suggestion was we should have an obligation of localisation of servers," he said.

Some players also raised concerns around the need to implement provisions of Press Note 3 in a more stricter manner.

"Press Note 3 articulates that no discounting is allowed and that no inventory ownership directly or indirectly is allowed by ecommerce marketplaces. However, there is a lot of concern about whether it is being effectively implemented. And if not, what can be done," said Snapdeal Co-founder Kunal Bahl.

The Commerce and Industry Ministries notifies FDI policies through press notes. Press Note 3, which was released in 2016, enlists guidelines for FDI in the ecommerce sector.

Another representative present at the meeting, who did not wish to be identified, said there is a unanimous view that any regulation brought in should punish those at fault rather than making business operations difficult for players across the board.

The meeting saw participation from senior officers of various ministries and departments, representatives from industry bodies, ecommerce companies, telecommunication and IT firms, RBI and independent experts.

The think-tank provides a platform for an inclusive and fact-based dialogue leading to recommendations for informed policymaking so that the country is adequately prepared to take advantage of the opportunities and meet the challenges that would arise from the next wave of advancements in digital economy.

Issues that were discussed include aspects of ecommerce, digital economy, physical and digital infrastructure, regulatory regime, taxation policy, data flows, server localisation, intellectual property rights protection, FDI, and trade-related aspects.

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