Google CEO Sundar Pichai writes to Indian Govt, advocates free flow of data across borders

Sundar Pichai

Advocating free flow of data beyond borders, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has written to IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad saying the step will encourage startups and global firms to contribute to India digital economy.

“Free flow of data across borders – with a focus on user privacy and security – will encourage start-ups to innovate and expand globally and encourage global companies to contribute to India’s digital economy,” Pichai wrote in a letter to IT Minister who visited Google’s Mountain View, California last month.

Pichai and his team had briefed Prasad about the company’s plans for India in the areas of connectivity, languages, artificial intelligence and capacity-building of startups and small enterprises.

Google CEO’s letter comes at a time when the govt is mulling to bring online firms to host user data locally. It has already sought public responses on the draft data protection bill, which was submitted in July. Former Supreme Court Judge Justice BN Srikrishna led committee had recommended that every data fiduciary in India shall ensure the storage of at least one serving copy of personal data on a server or data centre located in India.

It further said that the citizens’ rights have to be protected, the responsibilities of the states have to be defined, but the data protection can’t be at the cost of trade and industry. The data can be categorised and accordingly critical ones out of them need to be stored in a server or data centre located only in India.

The govt too had endorsed the view expressed in the report. Govt plans to present the bill in Parliament in next two months.

Earlier, The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had directed banks and financial institutions to host user data locally and asked them to update it every fortnight on its progress.

Industry bodies the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Nasscom, the software lobby grouping, have raised concerns on data localisation. They said the move will create trade barriers, increase cost for small companies and will impact the ease of doing business for Indian companies.

Google India has earlier said that it will follow local laws and local legislation.

It also revealed that the search engine firm has received more government requests for user data in the first half of this year than ever before.

Under data localisation law, Google has to hand over data on content like your Gmail messages, documents you’ve saved, videos watched on YouTube, or any web activity that falls under Google’s umbrella.

Meanwhile, Pichai, further said that the search engine giant is firmly committed to being part of India growth story.

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