PM Modi wants servers set up in India, expressed serious concern over data leaks
PM Narendra Modi is understood to have expressed serious concern over data leaks and alleged manipulation of user information by global internet and social media giants. According to top sources, the PM has instructed that data sharing should be regulated and servers be located within the country.
The issue came up for discussion during a recent meeting of the Union Cabinet, where the episode of data leakage and manipulation by Facebook and UK-based Cambridge Analytica was raised, said sources. “The PM said that servers that house data of millions of users should be located within India. The issue was thereafter discussed within the IT ministry which carried out a thorough review last week,” a top source told TOI .
The majority of user data generated on platforms of top companies such as Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram is stored across servers located internationally. Moreover, access to these servers – and the information they hold – is highly regulated by US laws and certain international treaties.
Questions sent to Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – regarding their plans for having local servers – and also on steps initiated towards data security, remained unanswered. The sources said the issue is being pursued on “top priority” by the government. “The PM has said that instruments should be established to ensure that user information is increasingly stored locally, and that its sharing is regulated. Data protection is of utmost concern in a highly-digital society… ”
A key concern of the IT ministry is that user data does not get misused for any kind of manipulation, including for ‘managing’ electoral processes in India. “An inquiry is already on regarding the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica episode where data may have been manipulated during polls. The government also wants to look into the other aspects related to data protection,” said sources.
The PM’s call for local servers comes days after banking regulator RBI mandated that all payment system operators have to store data within the country by September. RBI’s move will also impact Google and WhatsApp as they have entered the domestic digital payments sector.