April 29, 2014

BJP wants all online companies to set up servers in India

BJP IT cell co-Convener wants all online companies to set up servers in India

By NT Balanarayan on Apr 16th, 2014  |   3 Comments Email Email  anonymous tip off

The national co-convenor of BJP’s IT cell Vinit Goenka believes that online companies need to store data of Indians in servers within the country for security and data sovereignty.

In a blog post, Goenka notes that many countries have changed their IT laws keeping developments such as cloud computing in mind and made it mandatory for companies to store customer data within the country the customer resides in. He says that India also needs to consider such a legislation.

The main points he raises are:

- He claims that the police in India cannot track people who send “illegal data” unless they receive a complaint, but this could change if companies set up their server in India.

- He also raises questions about all the data that e-commerce companies collects and wonders why they are not stored in India. He also goes on to say that this data could be used against Indians if these companies are acquired by terrorist organisations!

- Goenka does present some valid reasons for forcing companies to host servers in India such as the location information gathered by companies like Google and maintaining of company books in servers of countries where Indian has no jurisdiction to hide black money.

But govt can already access data: Do note that the Indian government has been setting up monitoring systems such as CMS and Netra to grab online data. According to reports, the government was also planning to ask its US counterpart to share the technology it uses to decrypt conversations happening over chat services like WhatsApp and Skype, if the companies don’t do so themselves.

That being the case why should companies set up their server here? What is the guarantee that information thus obtained will be used only for security purposes and not for political targeting?

Also, if there is a data leak of any sort, it could have some serious repercussions on the privacy of users, considering there is no privacy law in place yet. This could also have major implications on enterprises including intellectual property theft and possible financial losses.

Jurisdiction in libel cases: Companies like Google and Amazon have argued jurisdiction in India and will probably not be able to argue jurisdiction if servers are set up here. This is an issue we had raised a few years ago in relevance to a libel case involving Blogspot.

ISPs’ requests to Indian government

Note that this is not the first time someone has demanded that tech companies set up servers in India. Last June, several Indian ISPs had reportedly asked the Indian Government to insist foreign Internet companies like Facebook and Google to setup local servers in India, after the leak of NSA’s surveillance data mining program PRISM.

ISPs had apparently asked the government to mandate foreign companies to store data from users within the country in these local servers, so that the data is not available to any other foreign intelligence agency. However, what’s interesting here is the same ISPs had not raised any such privacy issues when Indian government set up CMS, which is essentially India’s version of PRISM. (Also read: India To Ask ISPs, Telcos To Link To CMS; Who’ll Sue The Indian Government?)

Issue with setting up servers in India

It needs to be noted that India was ranked one of the most risk prone location for hosting Data Centre Operations in ‘Datacenter Risk Index 2013’ survey conducted by Cushman & Wakefield. While India ranked high on parameters like Cost of Labour (4th) and Sustainability (6th), it emerged 13th on Political Stability and 16th on International Bandwidth. It failed to score high on crucial parameters with higher weightage in the survey, scoring low on key factors such as Energy Cost (25th) and lying last (30th) on the parameters of Ease of Doing Business, Inflation and GDP per capita. It also ranked 28th of Natural Disasters, Energy Security, Corporation Tax and Education Level.

If BJP thinks companies should set up server in India, it should address these issues and make India an attractive location for these companies instead of making it a legal requirement, if and when it forms the government. This means solving energy issues, bandwidth issues and business policies among others.

With inputs from Vikas SN

Corrigendum: An earlier headline incorrectly referred to Goenka as the IT Cell head of the BJP. Goenka is the national co-convener of the IT Cell. Our apologies for the error.

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