Cybersecurity and Trade: Understanding Linkages for the Global South

Sukanya Thapliyal*

  1. BACKGROUND: 

Cybersecurity concerns are increasingly creeping into the international trade arena. Emerging technologies such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of things (IoT), among others, have led to the digitalisation of the economy and society and has transformed our day-to-day lives. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the digitalisation process. As a result, countries, businesses and individuals worldwide are embracing this shift and are becoming increasingly reliant on digital technologies. The digital economy has significantly contributed to the increase in services trade, reduced trade costs, and increased participation of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) within international trade. The shift towards the digital economy has also empowered enterprises in amassing and analysing massive amounts of data. This helps businesses or organisations improve their operations and develop better products and services for existing and prospective consumers. 

However, ensuing interconnectivity and reliance on digital technologies exposes society/economies to several risks. These include threats of cyberattacks such as ransomware, political espionage, economic espionage, identity theft, and intellectual property theft.  These threats impact national defence authorities, critical infrastructures, commercial enterprises, and enforcement agencies alike. Such threats can emerge from both State and Non-State actors. However, countries vary greatly in their ability to understand and address these challenges. A recent study by Kaspersky Labs has identified Asia-Pacific Countries (APAC) as among the most prominent targets of cyberattacks owing to their rapidly increasing usage of digital technologies coupled with lack of awareness regarding cybersecurity, and limited resources deployed towards mitigation. India features among the top five countries most prone to cyberattacks along with China and Pakistan.

This piece seeks to map the dominant discourse on Cyber Security and International Trade. First, it examines the current World Trade Organization (WTO) framework and selects certain Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) to understand how cybersecurity concerns are presently understood only as related to national security or potential non-tariff barriers (NTB). Rooted in the fact that cybersecurity is inextricably linked to the technical capacity of a Member State to identify vulnerabilities, it argues that there is an urgent need to repurpose cybersecurity as an issue within the capacity building and technology transfer discussions.

image by geralt. Licensed via CC0.
  1. CYBERSECURITY ISSUES UNDER WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION (WTO)

Despite rising cybersecurity concerns, international trade rules have minimal engagement in this area. Prominent international trade organisations (such as WTO) and other legal instruments like Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have primarily focused on setting rules for digital commerce and have addressed cybersecurity as an incidental and secondary issue.  Within WTO’s existing framework, cybersecurity issues do not fall within a single set of rules.1 Depending on the context and subject of the dispute, several WTO Agreements, including General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in Goods (GATT), General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement), can have some bearing on the result of the dispute. As a result, the emerging cybersecurity issues can only be understood and interpreted on a case-by-case basis.2 

Currently, countries impose cybersecurity measures that range from complete prohibition on the trade of goods or services, tariff and non-tariff barriers, imposition of certification requirements and imposition of domestic standards, among others. Although none of these cybersecurity measures has been challenged at the WTO’s Dispute Settlement System so far, concerns were raised against China’s imposition of cybersecurity measures on ICT products and services by the European Union, USA, Canada, Japan and Australia in 2017. In another instance, China raised concern over Australia banning Chinese companies from supplying equipment for a 5G mobile  network on the grounds of national security

Propelled by similar developments, where Member States imposed different types of cybersecurity measures (prohibition on trade in technology goods, imposition of certification requirements and domestic standards), the discourse on cybersecurity and trade primarily focused on the cybersecurity measures as potential non-tariff barriers. As WTO primarily focuses on strengthening economic cooperation and reducing or eliminating trade barriers (tariff and non-tariff), the primary discourse has been centered only around these concerns. Numerous studies have identified the need to distinguish between genuine domestic cybersecurity policy measures taken by the Member States from those that are merely disguised protectionism or purely political in nature. 

Scholars also highlighted that Member States might justify such actions based on national security exceptions articulated under the GATT (Article XXI), GATS (Article XIV bis), TRIPS (Article 73) and other WTO Agreements. The national security exception, as broadly understood, allows Member States to take measures as they consider necessary for the protection of their essential security interests. This is problematic from several perspectives. 

The security exception was long touted as a self-judging provision and outside the purview of judicial review of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB). This understanding was substantially modified in the context of GATT’s security exception in Russia – Traffic in Transit by the WTO Panel Report in 2019. The Panel opined that Article XXI (b) is not totally self-judging and that the term “essential security interests” are restricted to specific scenarios related to military facilities, nuclear facilities and measures taken in time of “war” or “other emergency in international relations”. Further, the Panel also emphasised that such a measure must be invoked in “good faith”. While Russia – Traffic in Transit Panel Report does provide a straightforward interpretation of the scope of the provision, several scholars, including Sarah Alturki and Neha Mishra have examined the security exceptions laid down under GATT and GATS as problematic in addressing cybersecurity measures. They maintained that the existing security exceptions under the WTO framework provisions are dated and were not conceived to cover cyber conflicts. Although the DSB may undertake to read such provisions in an evolutionary manner, the ambiguous nature of cyber-threats coupled with the lack of international consensus on cybersecurity governance makes it extremely challenging to resolve cybersecurity-related disputes. 

  1. CYBERSECURITY PROVISIONS UNDER FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS (FTAs)

Besides security exceptions under the WTO framework, some Free Trade Agreements, in their digital trade/e-commerce chapters, have dedicated provisions concerning inter-State cooperation in cybersecurity. For instance, Article 14.16 of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) recognises the importance of capacity building and collaborating mechanisms to identify and mitigate malicious intrusions or dissemination of malicious code that affect the electronic networks of countries which are Party to the Agreement. Article 12.13 of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) features an identical provision. Further, Article 19.15 of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) features an expanded version of this condition. The provision obligates the Member States to share information and best practices and employ risk-based approaches that rely on consensus-based standards to detect, respond to, and recover from cybersecurity events.

To contain the misuse of cybersecurity measures that can harm free trade and economic cooperation among participating countries, several FTAs have included a provision to deter such behavior. Such provisions include the prohibition on disclosure of source code3, prohibition on the requirement to locate computing facilities in a specific jurisdiction4 and provisions mandating cross-border transfer of information by electronic means5. The measures relating to prohibition on disclosure of source code, restriction on mandating location of the computing facilities and others often find themselves in the cross-fire of a host of concerns emanating from economic development, transparency and cybersecurity. 

It is also important to note that these provisions also target policies restraining the free flow of cross-border data (data-localisation policies) prevalent in a number of countries including India, China, Vietnam, among others. 

  1.  OTHER POSSIBLE FRONTIERS FOR CYBERSECURITY AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN RESPECT OF GLOBAL SOUTH 

Beyond the above mentioned concerns, cybersecurity is also a question of technical competence and resources available for several developing and least-developed countries. Several studies and reports, including the recent Kaspersky projections for 2022, indicate a wide gap in countries’ ability to detect, assess and effectively respond to cyber-attacks. There has been a steep rise in the adoption of digital tools often outpacing the establishment of necessary state institutions, legal regulations and capacity to manage new challenges.  Digital solutions are seen as the gateway to economic growth and social development. These developments should not be seen in isolation from cybersecurity capacity building. The unbridled adoption of digital solutions without being secured can have far reaching implications for the economy and can lead to poor infrastructures and hollow digital development for countries in the global south. 

As mentioned above, the current provisions, under the FTAs and discussions at the WTO surrounding cybersecurity concerns for international trade, extend only up to sharing information and best-practices. Such glaring vulnerabilities can only be addressed through development assistance that includes technology transfers and offering cybersecurity capacity building and requires active cooperation from the developed countries. The discussions around digital development must be embedded in digital security. Developing countries, including India, should leverage their positions in economic forums and constructively channel the discussions around tech-transfer and technology facilitation mechanisms (TFM) on cybersecurity, as they have done in the past in the context of drug development and climate change. Existing tools for developing and least-developed countries incorporated under Article 66 and 67 of the TRIPS Agreement are insufficient, have seen weak implementation, and are unlikely to bridge this gap. As India is assuming the G20 presidency on December 1, 2022, it can lead the path for such momentous changes and offer the global south perspective the world needs.


*The author is grateful for the comments and contributions by Ms Garima Prakash, Deputy Manager, NASSCOM.

References:

  1. It is important to note that the WTO Agreements dates back to 1994 did not treat cyber issues specifically, but their rules nevertheless have application to cyber-related policies. See: Kathleen Claussen, ‘Economic cybersecurity law’ in Routledge Handbook of International Cybersecurity, pp.341-353 (Routledge, 1, 2020). See also: Dongchul Kwak, “No More Strategical Neutrality on Technological Neutrality: Technological Neutrality as a Bridge Between the Analogue Trading Regime and Digital Trade” World Trade Review (2021), 1–15.
  2. Post-2017, around 70 WTO Member States spearheaded by the USA and other developed countries have initiated “exploratory work together towards future WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce.”  India and South Africa are not part of this initiative. Nevertheless, the result of these discussions shall have some bearing on the future of cybersecurity and trade.
  3.  Article 19.16 of USMCA (Similar provisions are incorporated under other trade agreements including CPTPP and RCEP).
  4. Article 19.12 of USMCA. (Similar provisions are incorporated under other trade agreements including CPTPP and RCEP).
  5. Article 19.11 of USMCA. (Similar provisions are incorporated under other trade agreements including CPTPP and RCEP).

[August 19-26] CCG’s Week in Review: Curated News in Information Law and Policy

The ECI sought a legal mandate to link Aadhaar with Voter IDs; Facebook approached the Supreme Court over PILs demanding Aadhaar linkage with social media accounts; MEITY invited ‘select stakeholders’ for private consultations over the data protection bill; and a new panel to review defence procurement practices in India was constituted by the Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, who also hinted at dropping India’s no first use policy – presenting this week’s most important developments in law and tech.       

Aadhaar

  • [Aug 19] EC seeks statutory baking to collect voters’ Aadhaar numbers, The Times of India report.
  • [Aug 19] Facebook approaches SC over Aadhaar linkage pleas, The Deccan Herald report; Firstpost report.
  • [Aug 20] Aadhaar to ensure farmers, not middlemen, get benefits, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 21] SC cautions govt on linking Aadhaar with social media, ET Tech report.
  • [Aug 21] Election Commission writes to law ministry, seeks legal powers to collect Aadhaar numbers for cleaning up voters’ list, Firstpost report.
  • [Aug 22] Aadhaar may be used to verify SECC beneficiaries, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 23] Centre to put QR code on fishermen’s Aadhaar cards to secure sea route: Amit Shah, The Times of India report.
  • [Aug 24] Aadhaar-social media linking: 10 things to know about the ongoing issue, India Today report.
  • [Aug 24] Govt to allow Aadhaar-based KYC for domestic retail investors; amendments to PMLA to be issues, Firstpost report.
  • [Aug 25] Linking Aadhaar with electoral rolls will create Delhi, Mumbai Analyticas: Justice Srikrishna, The Week report.

Digital India

  • [Aug 19] Indian companies at a disadvantage in tenders, says Commerce ministry, Money Control report; The Times of India report.
  • [Aug 21] India’s IT Industry turns to flexi staffing to keep its bench from idling, ET Tech report.
  • [Aug 22] Indian IT Firms step up patent filings as they look to monetize their IP, ET Tech report.
  • [Aug 26] Time to revisit FTAs to fire up electronics: Ravi Shankar Prasad, ET Rise report.

E-Commerce

  • [Aug 21] Government hopes for an Ecommerce GeM, ET Tech report.
  • [Aug 23] Technology reforming India’s retail businesses, ET Tech report.

Digital Payments

  • [Aug 22] RBI to allow e-mandates on card payments from September 1, Medianama report.
  • [Aug 22] Digital payment execs met Finance Ministry officials to discuss demerits of removing MDR: report, Medianama report.

Cryptocurrencies

  • [Aug 18] US lawmakers to visit Switzerland to discuss Facebook’s Libra, Cointelegraph report.
  • [Aug 19] Israeli Bitcoiners petition banks to disclose crypto policies, Cointelegraph report.
  • [Aug 21] Authorities seize crypto mining equipment from nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Coin Desk report.
  • [Aug 23] $100K Crypto donation to Amazon rainforest charity blocked by BitPay, Coin Desk report.

Internet Governance

  • [Aug 18] Google, Facebook, WhatsApp to be made more accountable under new rules, Financial Express report.

Data Protection 

  • [Aug 19] Google cuts some Android phone data for wireless carriers amid privacy concerns, The Hindustan Times report.
  • [Aug 20] MEITY privately seeks responses to fresh questions on the data protection bill from select stakeholders, Medianama report; ET Tech report; Business Standard report; Inc42 report.
  • [Aug 21] Google, Intel and Microsoft form data protection consortium, Engadget report; The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 22] Govt working towards tabling data protection bill in winter session, Livemint report; The Economic Times report
  • [Aug 24] India needs to draw a distinction between personal and impersonal data: Ravi Shankar Prasad, Inc42 report.
  • [Aug 25] Data Protection Bill need of the hour, says Justice BN Srikrishna, Inc42 report.

Social Media

  • [Aug 19] Social media accounts need to be linked with Aadhaar to check fake news, SC told, Livemint report.
  • [Aug 20] Twitter and Facebook crack down on accounts linked to Chinese campaign against Hong Kong, The Guardian report; Defense One report.
  • [Aug 20] Facebook’s new tool lets you see which apps and websites tracked you, the New York Times report; ET Tech report.
  • [Aug 21] China cries foul over Facebook, Twitter block of fake accounts, ET Tech report.
  • [Aug 23] Facebook removes accounts linked to Myanmar military, Medianama report.

Freedom of Speech

  • [Aug 20] Islamic preacher Zakir Naik banned from giving public speeches in Malaysia, India Today report.
  • [Aug 20] Zakir Naik apologizes to Malaysians for racial remarks, India Today report.
  • [Aug 21] Shehla rashid spreading fake news tro incite violence in Jammu and Kashmir: Indian army, DNA India report.
  • [Aug 24] IAS Officer Kannan Gopinathan resigns over ‘lack of freedom of expression’, The Hindu report; Scroll.in report.
  • [Aug 24] From colonial era to today’s India, a visual history of national security laws used to crush dissent, Sroll.in report.

Internal Security: Status of J&K

  • [Aug 19] Kashmir: now for the legal battle, India Today report.
  • [Aug 20] Amit Shah meets NSA, IB Chief on J&K, NDTV report.
  • [Aug 21] Armed forces to get human rights and vigilance cell after Rajnath Singh approves restructure, News 18 report.
  • [Aug 23] Opposition leaders demand release of Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 23] Blackout is collective punishment against people of J&K: UN Human Rights experts call on India to end communications shutdown, Medianama report.
  • [Aug 25] Amid massive clampdown, uneasy calm in volatile south Kashmir, The Tribune report.

Tech and Law Enforcement

  • [Aug 20] Flaws in cellphone evidence prompt review of 10,000 verdicts in Denmark, The New York Times report.
  • [Aug 21] Supreme Court directs Madras HC not to pass final order in WhatsApp traceability case, Entrackr report.
  • [Aug 21] Facebook, WhatsApp and the encryption dilemma – What India can learn from the rest of the world, CNBC TV 18 report.
  • [Aug 21] WhatsApp’s response to Dr. Kamakoti’s recommendation for traceability in WhatsApp, Medianama report.
  • [Aug 25] Curbs on Aadhaar data use delayed murder probe: Cops, Deccan Herald report.
  • [Aug 26] End-to-end encryption not essential to WhatsApp as a platform: Tamil Nadu Advocate General, Medianma report.

Tech and National Security

  • [Aug 18] New Panel to review defence procurement procedure to strengthen ‘Make in India’, Bharat Shakti report; Jane’s 360 report.
  • [Aug 18] RSS affiliate sees Chinese telecom firms as security risk for India, The Hindu report.
  • [Aug 18] Traders body calls for boycott of Chinese goods, seeks upto 500% import duty, Livemint report.
  • [Aug 19] India looks to acquire military equipment on lease amidst budget squeeze, Defence Aviation Post report.
  • [Aug 20] India, France likely to finalize roadmap for digital, cyber security cooperation, The Economic Times report; The Indian Express report.
  • [Aug 20] ‘Make in India’ Software Defined Radio: ‘Mother’ of all solutions for tactical communications of armed forces, Financial Express report.
  • [Aug 20] Need to reduce dependence on foreign manufacturers to modernise Indian Air Force, says defence minister Rajnath Singh, Firstpost report.
  • [Aug 20] Strike total at all 41 ordnance factories, say unions on day one, The Hindu Business Line report; Deccan Herald report.
  • [Aug 21] Government neglect my force HAL to crash land, Deccan Herald report.
  • [Aug 21] Cabinet Secretariat raps MoD, MEA for not involving NSA, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 21] Ajay Kumar appointed new Defence Secretary, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 21] Ordnance factories continue strike, MoD calls their products ‘high cost, low quality’, India.com report.
  • [Aug 24] It’s about national security: Arun Jaitley on how 2019 elections were different from 2014, India Today report.
  • [Aug 24] Gaganyaan: Russian space suits, French medicine for Indian astronauts? The Hindu report.
  • [Aug 24] Ordnance strike: Unions to take a call on Centre’s proposal on Aug 24, The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [Aug 25] Will India change its ‘No First Use’ policy? The Hindu report.
  • [Aug 21] French Eye: india to launch 8-10 satellites with France as part of a ‘constellation’ for maritime surveillance, The Pioneer report.

Cybersecurity

  • [Aug 19] Global Cyber Alliance launches cybersecurity development platform for Internet of Things (IoT) Devices, Dark reading report.
  • [Aug 19] The US Army is struggling to staff its cyber units: GAO, Defense One report.
  • [Aug 20] A huge ransomware attack messes with Texas, Wired report.
  • [Aug 21] Experts call for cybersecurity cooperation at the Beijing Cybersecurity Conference, Xinhua News report.
  • [Aug 23] Enterprises are increasingly adopting AI, ML in cybersecurity: Experts, Livemint report.
  • [Aug 24] Anomaly detection as advanced cybersecurity strategy, iHLS report.
  • Aug 24] Telangana preparing an army of cyber warriors, Telangana Today report.

Internet of Things

  • [Aug 22] ITI-Bhubaneswar introduces Internet of Things curriculum, The New Indian Express report.
  • [Aug 22] Will We Ever Have A Full Industrial Internet Of Things, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 24] IKEA Smart Home Investment Could Be Boost The Internet Of Things Needs, Forbes report.

Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Tech

  • [Aug 20] Use artificial intelligence for tax compliance: Direct tax panel, Business Standard report.
  • [Aug 20] Artificial intelligence and the world of tax litigation, Financial Express report.
  • [Aug 21] Intel launches first artificial intelligence chip Springhill, The Hindu report; News18 report.
  • [Aug 22] Facial recognition attendance systems for teachers to be installed in Gujarat’s govt schools, Medianama report.
  • [Aug 26] Yogi Govt Plans To Install Artificial Intelligence System In 12,500 Public Sector Buses, Business World report.

Telecom/5G

  • [Aug 24] PMO clears BSNL-MTNL revival, merger off the table, The Economic Times report.

Huawei

  • [Aug 19] Trump reiterates Huawei as ‘national security threat’, Cnet report.
  • [Aug 20] Tech giant Huawei slams US administration, calls sanctions politically motivated, India Today report.
  • [Aug 20] US sanctions on Huawei bite, but who gets hurt? Livemint report.
  • [Aug 21] Huawei founder tells staff it faces ‘live or die’ moment, Tech Radar report.
  • [Aug 22] Aadhaar-Social Media linking case: Next SC hearing to take place on 13 September, Firstpost report.
  • [Aug 22] China telcos weigh sharing 5G network to cut costs, potentially hurting Huawei, Reuters report.
  • [Aug 23] Huawei puts a price for Trump’s moves: $10 billion, The Hindu Business Line report
  • [Aug 25] trump, UK’s Johnson discuss Huawei on G7 sidelines, Reuters report.

Opinions and Analyses

  • [Aug 19] Vishal Krishna, Your Story, Data privacy is a fundamental right, but is the Indian startup ecosystem prepared for new protection law?
  • [Aug 19] Nitin Pai, Livemint, Appointing a chief of defence staff would just be the first step.
  • [Aug 19] Priyanjali Malik, The Hindu,  An intervention that leads to more questions.
  • [Aug 19] Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, The Print, India needs tips from Israel on how to handle Kashmir. Blocking network is not one of them.
  • [Aug 19] Ria Singh Sawhney, The Wire, Aadhaar: A Primer to knowing your rights.
  • [Aug 19] Alok Deb, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, Finally a CDS for the Indian Armed Forces.
  • [Aug 20] TOI Editorial, Aadhaar Hydra again: EC wants to link voter roll to Aadhaar data, this is unnecessary and risky.
  • [Aug 20] Lt. Gen. Harwant Singh (Retd), The Economic Times, A CDS for the armed forces must come with full play.
  • [Aug 20] Darren Death, Forbes, Is cybersecurity automation the future?
  • [Aug 20] Asit Ranjan Mishra, Livemint, Why New Delhi is turning up the heat on PoK now. 
  • [Aug 21] Financial Express Opinion, Election ID linked to Aadhaar can make votes portable.
  • [Aug 21] Nabeel Ahmed, Read Write, Artificial Intelligence: A tool or a threat to cybersecurity?
  • [Aug 21] Asheeta Regidi, Firstpost, Aadhaar-social media account linking could result in creation of a surveillance state, deprive fundamental right to privacy.
  • [Aug 22] Sanjay Hegde, The Hindu, Sacrificing liberty for national security.
  • [Aug 22] Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, The Quint, Fall of J&K: Real reason – ‘Jamhooriyat, Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat’?
  • [Aug 22] AS Dulat, The Telegraph, Kashmir: The perils of a muscular approach. 
  • [Aug 22] Somnath Mukherjee, The Economic Times, Growth is the biggest national security issue.
  • [Aug 22] K Raveendran, The Leaflet, Aadhaar-social media profile linkage will open pandora’s box.
  • [Aug 22] Mariarosaria Taddeo and Francesca Bosco, World Economic Forum blog, We must treat cybersecurity as a public good, here’s why.
  • [Aug 23] Nikhil Pahwa, Medianama, Against Facebook-Aadhaar linking.
  • [Aug 23] Ilker Koksal, Forbes, The rise of crypto as payment currency.
  • [Aug 24] Kalev Lataru, Forbes, Social media platforms will increasingly define ‘truth’.
  • [Aug 25] Sandeep Unnithan, India Today, South block.
  • [Aug 25] Spy’s Eye, Outlook, Intel agencies need strengthening.
  • [Aug 26] Prasanna S., The Hindu, Privacy no longer supreme.
  • [Aug 26] Sunil Abraham, Business Standard, Linking Aadhaar with social media or ending encryption is counterproductive. 
  • [Aug 26] The Financial Express Opinion, Linking social media to Aahdaar is serious overkill. 

[August 12-19] CCG’s Week in Review: Curated News in Information Law and Policy

This week PM Modi called for the creation of a Chief of Defence staff in his Independence Day Speech; Internet and Communications Shutdown continue in Jammu and Kashmir after a brief reprieve amid fears of violence; Rajasthan faces Internet shutdowns in parts of Jaipur following communal clash; China’s new digital currency is almost up for launch; Maharashtra adopts wider use of blockchain technology – presenting this week’s most important developments in law and tech.   

Internet Shutdown

  • [Aug 13] Jaipur: 24 people injured in communal clash, mobile internet suspended in some areas, Scroll report; Hindustan Times report.
  • [Aug 13] Internet services partially restored in Jammu & Kashmir: Report, Medianama report.
  • [Aug 17] Landline services partially restored in Valley, mobile internet back in 5 Jammu districts, Hindustan Times report.
  • [Aug 18] Mobile Internet services again snapped in Jammu region, The Times of India report.

Internal Security: Current Status of J&K

  • [Aug 18] Ex-defence officers and bureaucrats move SC against Centre’s decision on Article 370, The Economic Times report; The Quint report.
  • [Aug 18] The fear of losing land to outsiders grips Valley, The Tribune report.
  • [Aug 18] 4G internet services to be made operational only after assessing situation: Jammu Divisional Commissioner, ANI News report.
  • [Aug 18] Restrictions Reimposed in Srinagar After Protests, Clashes With Police, The Wire report; the Statesman report.
  • [Aug 18] About 4,000 people arrested in Kashmir since August 5: govt sources to AFP, The Hindu report.
  • [Aug 19] Schools Reopen In Kashmir But Few Children Show Up: 10 Points, NDTV report.
  • [Aug 19] Congress Leaders Deviate From Party Line on Article 370, Hail Centre’s Move in Kashmir, The Wire report.

Tech and National Security

  • [Aug 15] Independence Day 2019: Here are the highlights from PM Modi’s speech, Business Line report.
  • [Aug 15] Major push for military, infra in PM Modi’s I-Day speech: Key takeaways, Business Standard report.
  • [Aug 16] Explained: What is Chief of Defence Staff that PM Modi announced in I-Day speech, India Today report.
  • [Aug 17] Appointment of CDS will boost India’s national security and power projection capabilities, Economic Times report.

Aadhaar

  • [Aug 16] Amend existing laws so we can obtain and use people’s Aadhaar numbers for voter verification, says ECI to Law ministry, Medinama report.
  • [Aug 18] EC seeks legal backing to collect voters’ Aadhaar data to check duplication, Business Standard report.
  • [Aug 19] ‘Voluntary Aadhaar eKYC for bank accounts, mobile, MFs soon’, Times of India report.
  • [Aug 19] SC to consider Facebook’s Aadhaar plea on August 20, Deccan Herald report.

Digital India

  • [Aug 16] India’s battle to catch China in payment apps; country to become more digital, Livemint report.
  • [Aug 17] Top executives of Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi to meet government on August 19, Financial Express report.
  • [Aug 19] Lithuania can be important technology partner for India: Venkaiah Naidu, MoneyControl report.
  • [Aug 19] India to help Bhutan in digital payments, space technology, Hindustan Times report.

Cybersecurity

  • [Aug 13] NIST seeks industry feedback as Internet of Things cybersecurity standards take shape, Federal News Network report.
  • [Aug 14] Cybersecurity Startup Securiti.ai emerges from Stealth with $31 million Investment, ciscomag.com report.
  • [Aug 15] Kaspersky announces new Transparency Centre in Malaysia, Livemint report; Digital News Asia report.
  • [Aug 19] Cybersecurity leader Vectra establishes operations in Asia-Pacific to address growing demand for network detection and response in the cloud, Yahoo Finance report.

Emerging Technology

  • [Aug 14] Huawei starts research on 6G internet, Cnet report.
  • [Aug 14] Google’s soccer-playing A.I. hopes to master the world’s most popular sport, Digital Trends report.
  • [Aug 19] Three UK rolls out 5G home internet access in London, Engadget report.
  • [Aug 19] Cyber Security: Are IoT deployments in India safe from hackers?, Financial Express report.

Blockchain

  • [Aug 12] Reliance AGM: Mukesh Ambani backs blockchain technology; says data is wealth, Business Today report.
  • [Aug 19] Maharashtra to use blockchain technology in agriculture marketing, vehicle registration, DNA report; Cointelegraph report.

Cryptocurrency

  • [Aug 13] China says state Cryptocurrency set to rival Bitcoin is ‘Close’ to Launch, The Independent report.
  • [Aug 14] China’s Digital Currency Is Unlikely to Be a Cryptocurrency, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 14] IAMAI says RBI has no authority to ban cryptocurrencies, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 16] Chinese National Cryptocurrency Turns Out Not Being an Actual Crypto, Cointelegraph report.
  • [Aug 17] Cryptocurrency This Week: Supreme Court To Conclude Hearing Next Week, Bitcoin India Investigations And More, Inc42 report.
  • [Aug 17] Mastercard is assembling its own cryptocurrency team, New York Post report.
  • [Aug 18] Facebook’s Calibra cryptocurrency wallet already has competition, Cnet report.
  • [Aug 19] Silvergate Bank Plans to Offer Cryptocurrency-Collateralized Loans, Cointelegraph report.
  • [Aug 19] Binance planning to launch ‘Venus,’ similar to Facebook’s upcoming cryptocurrency Libra, Theblockcrypto.com report.

Huawei

  • [Aug 17] US set to give Huawei another 90 days to buy from American firms, Khaleej Times report.
  • [Aug 18] Trump To Suddenly Throw Lifeline To Huawei, Report Says, Saving Huawei Mate 30 Pro, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 18] Huawei to Trump: “You don’t want us to fight Google.”, EsquireME report.
  • [Aug 19] Trump: ‘I don’t want to do business with Huawei’, AlJazeera report.

Artificial Intelligence

  • [Aug 13] AI fights banana disease, Fruitnet.com report.
  • [Aug 13] TCS’ AI platform Ignio tops $60m revenue mark, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 14] Zensar Technologies places its bets on artificial intelligence, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 14] Ola ‘acquihires’ artificial intelligence start-up Pikup.ai, Financial Express report.
  • [Aug 14] Wipro launches edge artificial intelligence solutions powered by Intel, Dataquest report; Moneycontrol report.
  • [Aug 15] IT big 3 to offer artificial intelligence as a platform, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 15] Google Assistant tops 2019 digital assistance IQ test, but every AI posts gains, Venturebeat report.
  • [Aug 16] Google brings AI to studying with Socratic, ZDNet report.
  • [Aug 16] [Funding alert] AI startup Orbo.ai raises $1.6M from YourNest Ventures, Venture Catalysts, YourStory report.
  • [Aug 16] [Funding alert] Retail AI startup SprintAI raises $500,000 from InMobi co-founder, others, YourStory report.
  • [Aug 18] Small towns in India are powering the global race for artificial intelligence, The Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 18] New consortium aims to make Bengaluru hub for industrial AI, Livemint report.

Surveillance

  • [Aug 16] Data Leviathan: China’s Burgeoning Surveillance State, Human Rights Watch report.
  • [Aug 16] Uganda spends US$126 million on surveillance system with facial recognition from Huawei, South China Morning Post report.
  • [Aug 16] Trump administration reportedly wants to extend NSA phone surveillance program, Cnet report.
  • [Aug 17] White House is pushing to reauthorize law that allows surveillance on Americans’ phone records, salon.com report.

Data Privacy and Protection

  • [Aug 15] How Data Privacy Laws Can Fight Fake News, JustSecurity.org report.
  • [Aug 16] What The Great Hack tells us about data privacy, Livemint report.
  • [Aug 17] Facebook’s Bizarre Response To Privacy Scandals? New Pop-Up Cafés, Forbes report.
  • [Aug 18] Why Blockchain Technology is Important for Data Privacy, Bitcoinist.com report.

E-Commerce

  • [Aug 15] Alibaba results beat estimates on cloud, e-commerce growth, Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 16] E-commerce sector looks to self-regulate, Flipkart, Amazon not on board, CNBCTV 18 report.
  • [Aug 18] Fintech firm Suvidhaa plans e-commerce foray, Economic Times report.
  • [Aug 19] Why social e-commerce is set to become the next big thing in China, TechWire Asia report.
  • [Aug 19] China e-commerce sites block sales of protest gear to Hong Kong, The Japan Times report.

Opinions and Analyses

  • [Aug 13] Editorial, The Guardian, The Guardian view on surveillance: Big Brother is not the only watcher now.
  • [Aug 13] Anand Venkatanarayanan, Medianama, Dr Kamakoti’s solution for WhatsApp traceability without breaking encryption is erroneous and not feasible.
  • [Aug 14] Gladys Kong, Forbes, Why Stricter Data Privacy Laws Would Benefit The Data Industry.
  • [Aug 15] Tuhina Joshi and Vijayant Singh, Yourstory, Independence Day: When will India be free of data privacy issues?
  • [Aug 15] Shrija Agrawal, Livemint, ‘Cashless’ and the politics of innovation.
  • [Aug 15] Jeffrey Ton, Forbes, The Skeptic’s Guide To Assessing Artificial Intelligence.
  • [Aug 15] Matt Ocko and Alan Cohen, TechCrunch, Artificial intelligence can contribute to a safer world.
  • [Aug 15] Jaclyn Jaeger, Compliance Week, Data privacy vs. national security: Moving the conversation forward.
  • [Aug 15] Jinoy Jose P, Business Line, The Cheatsheet: How Internet shutdowns hurt the economy.
  • [Aug 15] Editorial, Hindustan Times, India’s tryst with freedom.
  • [Aug 16] Editorial, The Hindu, Words and deeds: On Modi’s I-Day vision.
  • [Aug 16] Editorial. The Indian Express, Injustice system.
  • [Aug 17] Guillermo M. Luz, The Inquirer, Apec’s new data privacy rules.
  • [Aug 17] Pravin Sawhney, The Tribune, Where does CDS fit in?
  • [Aug 18] Editorial, Hindustan Times, Fashioning India’s nuclear posture.
  • [Aug 18] Enrique Dans, Forbes, Will China’s New Cryptocurrency Make Virtual Cash Respectable?
  • [Aug 18] Stephanie Hare, The Guardian, Facial recognition is now rampant. The implications for our freedom are chilling.
  • [Aug 19] Thomas Hemphill, NWI Times, GUEST COMMENTARY: Artificial Intelligence and the antitrust challenges.
  • [Aug 19] Ravi Shankar Prasad, The Indian Express, Valley’s new dawn: An era of development and inclusion beckons.
  • [Aug 19] Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, The Quint, Massacre of J&K Laws and Constitution but No Blood on the Streets.

[July 22-29] CCG’s Week in Review: Curated News in Information Law and Policy

The RTI Amendment Bill was passed by both houses of the Parliament as the Government considers relaxation in proposed data localisation requirements for foreign tech firms; crypto critiques by the Garg Committee’s proposed ban; probes and penalties in the struggle to regulate global tech giants— presenting this week’s most important developments in law and tech.

Right to Information

  • [July 23] Lok Sabha passes bill to amend RTI, Oppn says centre is weakening the law, Livemint report; The Economic Times report.
  • [July 23] Lok Sabha passes RTI Amendment Bill amid Opposition uproar; what changes have been proposed under new law, Firstpost report
  • [July 24] 14 political parties from Rajya Sabha oppose the RTI amendment bill, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 24] Freedom of expression is under threat due to RTI Act amendments, say former Chief Information Commissioners, National Herald report.
  • [July 25] Rajya Sabha passes RTI amendment bill, Opposition walks out, Livemint report; India Today report; Business Standard report.

Data Protection Bill

  • [July 23] Personal data protection bill: IT Ministry may back storage curbs for critical, sensitive data, The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [July 27] Policymakers a divided lot on personal data bill provisions, ET Tech report.
  • [July 27] Personal data protection bill to take care of sovereign data concerns: Govt, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 28] Data protection bill still in limbo after 1 year; Govt refuses info, The Quint report.
  • [July 28] India will never compromise on its data sovereignty: Prasad, The Economic Times report; DNA India report; Firstpost report

Data Protection and Privacy

  • [July 23] Equifax to pay $650 million for the 2017 data breach, Medianama report;  New York Times report.
  • [July 24] Facebook agrees to pay record $5 billion settlement in privacy investigation, Time magazine report; NBC news report; The Economic Times report
  • [July 25] Record Facebook fine won’t end scrutiny of the company, ET tech report.
  • [July 25] WhatsApp announces privacy investigation partnership, ET Tech report.
  • [July 25] WhatsApp to engage with policymakers to strengthen privacy, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 25] Facebook ends Microsoft, Sony access to friend data, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 25] Facebook warns of costly privacy changes, discloses another US probe, ET tech report.
  • [July 26] UK Data Protection Agency issues new guidelines for data sharing, JD Supra report.

Data Localisation

  • [July 24] Only critical information may need to be housed in India, ET Tech report.
  • [July 24] India may tweak data privacy norms to keep only critical data in country: report, The Economic Times report; Business Today report.
  • [July 26] As data localisation gathers steam, RailTel goes on cloud offensive, The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [July 29] Big relief for foreign firms: Govt panel says no need to mirror personal data in India, Financial Express report; The Indian Express report.

Digital India

  • [July 22] Empowering India’s hardware startups: Qualcomm signs a technical bilateral cooperation agreement with MeitY, YourStory.com report.
  • [July 23] TRAI wants to be country’s data czar, MeitY not keen, The Economic Times report; Money Control report.
  • [July 26] India’s agricultural farms get a technology lift, ET Tech report.
  • [July 29] India’s mid-cap IT firms caught between shrinking deals and rising costs, ET tech report.

Content Regulation

  • [July 23] TikTok has removed over 60 lakh videos between July 2018 to April 2019, Medianama report
  • [July 23] Why they want TikTok banned in India, Medianama report.
  • [July 24] Over 150 cases of fake news reported during Lok Sabha elections, says Union Minister, News18 report.
  • [July 24] Over 2100 URLs on social media blocked in 2019: Prasad, The Outlook report.
  • [July 25] Govt says porn sites blocked by Jio, Airtel and others after 3 court orders, hints watching porn not illegal, India Today report.
  • [July 26] Muslim hawker beaten up over Jai Shri Ram chants in Bengal, internet suspended after tension, India Today report.
  • [July 26] Social influencers make hay while content shines, ET Tech report.
  • [July 26] POCSO amendment bill expands child porn definition to ‘any visual depiction’ of sexually explicit content involving children, Medianama report.

Aadhaar

  • [July 21] UIDAI to soon select adjudicating officer for inquiry in contravention cases, Money Control report.
  • [July 23] 100 plus e-seva centres in Chennai shut after operators lose access to Aadhaar website, Times of India report
  • [July 24] Income Tax return 2019: Compulsory mention of Aadhaar in ITR, Financial Express report.
  • [July 24] Devendra Fadnavis joins the ‘link Aadhaar with voter IDs’ bandwagon: report, Medianama report.
  • [July 25] States can now use Aadhaar data for their schemes, ET Tech report; The Hindu Business Line report, Livemint report; Money Control report.
  • [July 25] Aadhaar linking not mandatory for activation of RuPay cards, Times Now News report.
  • [July 25] Aadhaar misuse surfaces in Gurugram, The Tribune report.
  • [July 25] Providing Aadhaar details for ‘parivar pehchan patra’ purely voluntary: Khattar, The Week report.
  • [July 25] All Aadhaar issues have been settled: Nandan Nilekani, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 26] Plea against Aadhaar-vote link filed before Delhi HC, The Telegraph report.
  • [July 28] Fake Aadhaar racket busted in Andhra Pradesh, The New Indian Express report.
  • [July 28] Linking Aadhaar with election ID would disenfranchise elderly and manual labourers: ECI told, Counterview report.

E-Commerce

  • [July 22] How an in-house e-commerce platform revolutionised government procurement, ET Tech report.
  • [July 25] Shopping from Chinese e-tailers set to become more expensive, The Economic Times report; Entrackr report.
  • [July 26] Amazon engaging with Indian govt to seek stable e-commerce policy, ET Tech report.
  • [July 28] Government plans e-commerce boost for rural products, ET Tech report.
  • [July 29] Data, e-commerce laws held up as India, US talk, Hindustan Times report.

Digital payments

  • [July 26] Govt fears WhatsApp may share payment data with Facebook, others, ET Tech report.
  • [July 26] Digital payment firms wait for new finance secretary to discuss Merchant Discount rates (MDRs), ET tech report.
  • [July 27] WhatsApp’s payment service is now being tested by companies, ET Tech report.

Cryptocurrency

  • [July 22] FINRA extends deadline for firms to report crypto activity, CoinDesk report.
  • [July 22] Iran legalizes crypto mining, Coin Desk report.
  • [July 23] Inter-Ministerial Group suggests banning of private cryptocurrencies in India, The Economic Times report; Business Today report; Livemint report; Quartz report
  • [July 23] India mulling an official crypto-currency? Looks like govt veering towards the idea, The Economic Times report
  • [July 23] Swiss Data protection regulator seeks details on Facebook’s Libra, Coin telegraph report.
  • [July 24] Crypto startups say panel clueless about Distributed Ledger Tech, ET Tech report.
  • [July 24] Crypto community rails against crackdown proposed by Garg Committee, Entrackr report.
  • [July 24] Cryptocurrency ban bill: Finance Ministry wants to ban cryptocurrency, encourage blockchain, Medianama report.
  • [July 24] Panel’s cryptic stance foxes crypto investors, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 25] Investors in limbo as Centre proposes cryptocurrency ban, Times of India report.
  • [July 26] Indian government official resigns after drafting ‘flawed’ crypto bill, Bitcoin.com News report.
  • [July 27] IRS warns crypto holders: dodge tax and we’ll hand out stiff punishments, the Guardian report.
  • [July 27] Crypto mining malware targets cloud computing platforms, FX Street report.

Cybersecurity

  • [July 22] Israel to arm students on autism spectrum with cybersecurity skills, Times of Israel report.
  • [July 23] NSA to unveil a cybersecurity directorate report says, CNET report; The Wall Street Journal report; Forbes report.
  • [July 24] A contract programmer faces 10 years in jail for inserting a ‘logic bomb’ into a spreadsheet that caused the company to keep rehiring him, Business Insider report.
  • [July 25] Louisiana declares cybersecurity state of emergency after a series of attacks on school district systems, Dark Reading report.
  • [July 25] Russian hackers build fake Skype, Signal, Pornhub apps to lure victims, Defense One report.
  • [July 26] Does India have enough cybersecurity talent? Analytics India report.
  • [July 26] UK’s national Cybersecurity Centre warns over global DNS hijacking, JD Supra report.
  • [July 27] Cybersecurity spending to rise 37% in five years, The New India Express report.

Big Tech

  • [July 24] The struggle to regulate online giants like Facebook, Google, Amazon, ET Tech report.
  • [July 26] Australian anti-trust watchdog challenges market dominance of Google and Facebook in advertising and online news, Medianama report
  • [July 26] Big Tech release transparency report for the Global Internet Forum to counter terrorism, Medianama report.
  • [July 28] How regional languages are fueling You Tube’s growth in India, ET Tech report.

Emerging Tech/AI

  • [July 22] With $1 billion from Microsoft, an AI Lan wants to mimic the brain, The New York Times report; Tech Crunch report.
  • [July 23] Facial recognition: As airports in India start using the technology, how will it be regulated? Scroll.in report.
  • [July 23] How AI will help detect tiny drones 3 km away, Defense One report
  • [July 24] China’s ByteDance ventures into AI-generated music with Jukedeck deal, ET Tech report.
  • [July 24] Reliance owned Haptik aqcui-hires Los Angeles based AI startup Convrg, Tech Circle report.
  • [July 26] Facial recognition systems at IGI airport to be operational from next month: report, Medianama report.

Telecom/5G

  • [July 22] EU completes first phase of 5G cybersecurity risk assessment, RCR Wireless report.   [July 24] Top CoT panel clears Rs. 3,050 cr penalties on Airtel, Voda-Idea in PoI issue, ET Telecom report
  • [July 24] Jio is biggest mobile tower customer of BSNL, MTNL, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 25] National Security Advisory Board blows to 5G bugle: Build local muscle, get real on China, ET Prime report.

More on Huawei

  • [July 22] Huawei secretly helped build North Korea’s wireless network, leaked documents suggest, CNET report; The Guardian report.
  • [July 22] UK Government decision on 5G delayed, BBC News report.
  • [July 23] Huawei unit cuts more than 600 jobs from its US research wing following sanctions, Livemint report; Tech Crunch report.
  • [July 23] Huawei inks pact with Micromax to expand retail presence, but analysts wary of upside, The Hindu Business Line report.; Business Today report; Livemint report.
  • [July 24] Huawei faces new allegations over cybersecurity in the Czech Republic, Forbes report.
  • [July 26] China accuses FedEx of ‘holding up’ Huawei parcels, The Economic Times report.

Tech and Elections

  • [July 24] Electronic voting machines completely non-tamperable: Centre to Lok Sbaha, NDTV report.
  • [July 25] Tulsi Gabbard, Democratic Presidential Candidate, sues Google for $50 million, The New York Times report; The Wrap report.

Tech and Law Enforcement

  • [July 25] HC pings IIT-M professor for report on WhatsApp’s traceability, ET Telecom report
  • [July 27] RAW ex-chief urges coordination between intelligence agencies, The New Indian Express report.

Tech and National Security

  • [July 22] 275 items manufactured by OFB declared “non-core”, forces can procure it from OFB or open market, The Outlook report.
  • [July 23] In first 50 days, Modi Govt spent Rs. 8500 cr on defence deals, The Economic Times report
  • [July 23] Turkey threatens retaliation if US imposes sanctions over S-400 purchase, Jane’s Defence Weekly report.
  • [July 24] In his first Defence Acquisition Council meeting, Rajnath Singh to clear projects worth Rs. 10,000 crore, Times Now news report.
  • [July 24] HC asks Centre to examine whether to restrain Google from uploading Indian maps, ET Tech report.
  • [July 24] India all set to launch first-ever space war exercise ‘IndSpaceEx’, Jagran Josh report.
  • [July 25] More autonomy for OFB under planned corporatisation but job security to go, Times of India report.
  • [July 26] India to be self-reliant in defence manufacturing in the next five years: DRDO, Times Now News report.
  • [July 28] Facial recognition is changing Customs and Border protection operations, Defense One report.
  • [July 29] Rajnath wants DAC file summaries in Hindi, India Today report.
  • [July 29] State-owned enterprises continue to dominate defence production in India, The New Delhi Times report.

National Security Law

  • [July 22] National security, welfare schemes, foreign policy tops Modi government’s agenda in first 50 days of NDA-II, Swarajya report.
  • [July 22] Will book land mafia under NSA:UP CM, Times of India report.
  • [July 25] Lok Sabha passes anti-terror bill to ban individuals too as terrorists, amid Opposition concerns over misuse, Livemint report; The Business Standard report; Time of India report.

Opinions and Analyses

  • [July 21] Nitin Pai, Live Mint, Some space for the private sector in the race for space.
  • [July 22] Ankit Srivastava, New Delhi Times, Modi irradiates loopholed Defence procurement. 
  • [July 23] Yogesh Gupta, Times of India (blog), China is rapidly emerging as a technology superpower; far reaching-implications for India. 
  • [July 23] Ashit K Srivastava, The Pioneer, Achilles’ heel of data protection.
  • [July 23] Prannv Dhawan and John Simte, Deccan Herald, Dangers of regulatory approach in tackling fake news.
  • [July 23] Yaya Fanusie, Forbes, Will crypto rogues threaten the geopolitical order?
  • [July 24] Venkat Ananth and Shelley Singh, ET Tech, Big Tech and fair digital rules.
  • [July 24] Maj. Gen. Amrit Pal Singh (retd), The Tribune, National security  narrative and its economics.
  • [July 24] Rahul Matthan, Livemint, UPI is world-class and it’s time to take it international.
  • [July 25] Neiman Lab, Quartz, Should Facebook have a “quiet period” of no algorithm changes before a major election?
  • [July 26] Mishi Choudhary, Financial Express, Data safety regulation not barrier to India’s role as global destination. 
  • [July 26] Prasanto K Roy, India Today, Aadhaar: The offer you can’t refuse.
  • [July 26] Kunal Ambasta, The Indian Express, NIA Amendment Bill infringes upon state authority, must be reconsidered.
  • [July 27] Naman Pugalia, The Indian Express, Aadhaar must sync with voter IDs to empower citizens.
  • [July 27] Kalev Leetaru, Forbes, Does the Huawei debate matter when all roads in the digital world lead back to the US?
  • [July 28] Mathieu Duchatel, South China Morning Post, While weighing 5G security risks, France predicts it can manage Huawei without banning it.
  • [July 28] S Ragotham, Deccan Herald, India, with Chinese traits?
  • [July 28] Maj. Gen. Ashok Mehta, India Legal Live, Army information security: big brother is listening.
  • [July 28] Swathi Moorthy, Money Control, This week in IT: Tackling privacy breaches in an era where data is the new oil.

[July 15-22] CCG’s Week in Review: Curated News in Information Law and Policy

The National Investigation Agency Act was amended by Parliament this week, expanding its investigation powers to include cyber-terrorism; FaceApp’s user data privacy issues; and the leaked bill to ban cryptocurrencies— presenting this week’s most important developments in law and tech.

Aadhaar

  • [July 15] Govt plans Aadhaar based identification of patients to maintain health records, Live Mint report; The Indian Express report.
  • [July 15] Petition in Delhi HC seeking linking of Aadhaar with property documents, Live Mint report.
  • [July 15] Government stops verification process using Aadhaar for driving license, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 15] Government stops verification process using Aadhaar for driving license: Nitin Gadkari, ET Auto report.
  • [July 18] Will Aadhaar interchangeability for ITR make PAN redundant? Live Mint report.
  • [July 18] Govt floats idea for Aadhaar-like database for mapping citizen health, Business Standard report; Money Control report; Inc42 report.
  • [July 19] Linking Aadhaar with Voter ID— Election Commission to decide within weeks, The Print report; India Legal analysis.
  • [July 21] Mumbai man fights against linking Aadhaar to salary account, The Quint report.
  • [July 21] Violating SC rules, matrimonial site sells love, marriage using Aadhaar data, National Herald report.
  • [July 22] Large cash deposits may soon need Aadhaar authentication, Times of India report; Money Control report.

Right to Information

  • [July 19] Bill to amend RTI law introduced in Lok Sabha amid opposition, India Today report.

Free Speech

  • [July 18] Ajaz Khan of Big Boss fame arrested by Mumbai Police for TikTok video, The Asian Age report; DNA India report.
  • [July 19] Guwahati HC grants anticipatory bail to poets accused of writing communally charged poetry on Assam citizenship crisis, Live Law report.

Internet Governance

  • [July 16] MeitY to finalise Intermediary Liability rules amendment by month end, Medianama report; Inc42 report.

Data Protection and Data Privacy

  • [July 17] Canada probing data theft at military research center: reports, Business recorder report.
  • [July 17] BJP raises issue of privacy breach by tech devices in Rajya Sabha, BJD demads more funds, News 18 report.
  • [July 17] TMC MPs protest outside Parliament in Delhi, demand to bring Data Protection Law, DNA India report.
  • [July 17] Democrats issue warnings against viral Russia-based face-morphing app ‘FaceApp’, NPR report.
  • [July 18] Government notice to Tiktok, Helo; asks to answer 21 questions or face ban, Gadgets Now report; Medianama report; Business insider report.
  • [July 18] Singapore data protection enforcement guide released, Asia Business law Journal report.
  • [July 18] Irish Data Protection Commission issues advice over FaceApp privacy concerns, RTE report.
  • [July 18] Govt admits to data leak of unemployment figures ahead of May announcement in Rajya Sabha, terms the issue ‘serious’, Firstpost report.
  • [July 19] From bad to worse: PM Modi’s office has asked IT Ministry to keep a close eye on TikTok, India Times report.
  • [July 20] Equifax near $700 million settlement of data breach probes: WSJ, AL Jazeera report.
  • [July 21] Jio backs data protection; highlights future growth areas like agriculture, healthcare and education, The Economic Times report.

Data Localisation

  • [July 19] Firms exploring Telangana to set up data centres, The Hindu report.
  • [July 22] Bytedance starts building local data centre in India after lawmakers complain of data privacy, Entrackr report.
  • [July 22] China’s ByteDance to store Indian data locally after MPs raise concerns on privacy, national security, ET Tech report; Outlook report.
  • [July 22] Jio backs data localization to stave off cyberattacks, ET Tech report; Medianama report.

Digital India

  • [July 15] India lags peers in tech skills: Coursera study, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 16] WiFi on the go: Government pushes to keep Bharat connected, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 17] BMTC wants to reboot its IT plan, ET tech report.
  • [July 19] How improved infrastructure and tech firms are changing game development in India, ET Tech report.

Digital Payments and E-Commerce

  • [July 14] How women are sidelined in India’s e-commerce growth, ET Tech report.  
  • [July 17] Digital payment firms write to Government, asking compensation for losses incurred due to ‘zero’ merchant fee, Latestly report.
  • [July 22] How an in-house e-commerce platform Leaf Era has revolutionsed government procurement, ET Tech report.
  • [July 22] Aditya Birla Payments Bank to shut down due to “unanticipated developments in business landscape”, Medianama report.

Cryptocurrency

  • [July 15] Hacked crypto exchange Bitpoint discovers more millions are missing, Coin Desk report.
  • [July 15] India: Leaked draft bill would ban all crypto except ‘Digital Rupee’, Coin Telegraph report.
  • news to those Swiss authorities, Business Insider report.
  • [July 16] US says cryptocurrency is a national security issue, The New Indian Express report.
  • [July 16] Bitcoin and crypto suddenly branded a national security issue, Forbes report.
  • [July 16] Crypto a security threat, instrument for illicit activities: Trump admin, Business Standard report.
  • [July 17] Facebook said its Libra cryptocurrency will be regulated by Swiss authorities – but that was
  • [July 17] Making sense of chaos? Algos scour social media for clues to crypto moves, ET Markets report
  • [July 20] Cryptokart: Another Indian crypto exchange shuts doen operations, Coin Telegraph report.
  • [July 22] Crypto-attacks are rising in Asia—and cybersecurity AI may be the best way to fight the threat: Darktrace, Business Insider report.

Emerging Tech

  • [July 13] Facial recognition tech is growing stronger, thanks to your face, New York Times report.
  • [July 19] Is there a tug of war between Niti Aayog, IT Ministry on artificial intelligence project? India Today report.

Big Tech

  • [July 15] Tech giants to face US hearings on anti-trust, cryptocurrency, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 15] Amazon Web Services still on pole for $10bn defence cloud deal after Oracle case crashes, DataEconomy.com report.
  • [July 16] Google accused of ripping off digital ad technology in US lawsuit, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 19] EU opens investigation into anti-competitive conduct of Amazon: Will it face heat in India too? Entrackr report.

Telecom/5G

  • [July 17] Govt working on revival of BSNL: Minister tells Lok Sabha, The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [July 19] Make in India: Only half of country’s 268 cellphone makers stay afloat, Financial Express report.

More on Huawei

  • [July 16] The US Congress wants to block the Trump administration from weakening Huawei restrictions, The Verge report.
  • [July 17] US-China talks stuck in rut over Huawei, The Wall Street Journal report.
  • [July 19] Two-thirds of Canadians reject closer ties to China and want Huawei banned from 5G networks, poll says, South China Morning Post report.
  • [July 20] White House to host meeting with tech executives on Huawei ban: report, Business Standard report.  

Cybersecurity

  • [July 15] Use Indian IPRs to ensure telecom network security: Trade group. ET Telecom report.
  • [July 15] Indian IT managers facing budget crunch for cybersecurity, Live Mint report
  • [July 16] Your WhatsApp, Telegram files can be hacked: Symantec, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 16] IT companies tightening salary budgets, leveraging variable pay for niche skills, ET Tech report.
  • [July 17] Druva acquires hybrid data protection form CloudLanes, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 17] Indian Army launches massive crackdown on personnel violating its cybersecurity norms, The Print report.
  • [July 19] NSO spyware targets phones to get data from Google, Facebook, iCloud: Report, Medianama report.
  • [July 20] New bills on cybersecurity, crime against women soon: Union Minister, India Today report; The Indian Express report.
  • [July 21] An entire nation just got hacked, CNN report.
  • [July 22] Fix Rogue audits; guard Indian data; bulletproof 5G: India’s new cybersecurity chief’s Vision 2020, ET Prime report.
  • [July 22] Fake FaceApp software may infect your device, says global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab, New Nation report.

Tech and Elections

  • [July 14] New election systems use vulnerable software, AP News report.

Tech and Law Enforcement

  • [July 12] Revealed: This is Palantir’s Top-Secret User Manual for Cops, Vice Motherboard report.
  • [July 22] WhatsApp traceability case: Details of data requests made by Tamil Nadu Govt to social media companies, Medianama report.

Tech and Military

  • [July 14] French jetpack man flyboards up Champs-Elysees for Paris Parade, RFI report.
  • [July 15] Dassault offset money to help in skill training: FM Nirmala Sitharaman, Money Control report. Economic Times report.
  • [July 16] Modi Govt to buy Pilatus trainer aircraft following corruption charges, to ban Swiss defence firm for one year, OpIndia report.
  • [July 16] If India chooses F-21, it will plug into ‘world’s largest fighter plane ecosystem’: Lockheed Martin, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 17] AI has a bias problem and that can be a big challenge in cybersecurity, CNBC report
  • [July 17] IAF on spares buying spree, The Quint report.
  • [July 19] Lockheed Martin identifies 200 potential Indian partners, Hindustan Times report.
  • [July 18] Navy to buy Rs. 1,589 crore satellite from ISRO, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 18] Indian MoD issues RFP for heavyweight torpedoes for Kalvari-class submarines, Jane’s 360 report.
  • [July 18] Rafale will provide IAF strategic deterrence: Defence Ministry, Money Control report
  • [July 19] US F-35, poster child for ineptitude, inefficiency, The Middle East Monitor report.
  • [July 19] South African Council to collaborate with Indian defence industry, Outlook India report.
  • [July 20] DRDO carries out a dozen successful summer trials of NAG anti-tank missile, ANI report.
  • [July 21] IAF Pilots could soon fly Tom Cruise;s fighter jet from Top Gun Maverick, News 18 report.
  • [July 21] India to forge ahead with Russia accord despite US threat of sanctions, DNA India report.

National Security Legislation

  • [July 15] Lok Sabha passes bill that gives more powers to NIA, Live Mint report, ANI report.
  • [July 15] Lok Sabha passes NIA Amendment Bill to give more power to anti-terror agency; here’s all you need to know, Business Insider report.
  • [July 17] What is the National Investigation Agency Bill and why is it in contention?, Money Control report.
  • [July 17] Rajya Sabha passes National Investigation Agency Amendment Bill 2019, Live Mint report; Outlook India report.
  • [July 18] Cabinet asks finance panel to consider securing non-lapsable funds for defence, The Indian Express report; Financial Express report.
  • [July 20] New bills on cybersecurity, crime against women soon: Union Minister, India Today report; The Indian Express report.

Opinions and Analyses

  • [July 11] Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept, How US Tech giants are helping build China’s Surveillance state.
  • [July 15] Jemima Kelly, Financial Express, Trump v Crypto: rage against the obscene.
  • [July 15] Ravi Shanker Kappor, News 18 Opinion, Cost of not carrying out economic reforms: Acute shortage of funds for military modernisation.
  • [July 16] Jayshree Pandya, Forbes, Nuances of Aadhaar: India’s digital identity, identification system and ID.
  • [July 16] Binoy Kampark, International Policy Digest, The UN’s free speech problem.
  • [July 16] K Satish Kumar, DNA India, Need more clarity on data bill.
  • [July 16] Abhishek Banerjee, Swarajya, Richa Bharti: The Free Speech Hero India Needs.
  • [July 17] Ananth Krishnan, The Print, Three reasons why it’s not Huawei or the highway for India’s 5G future.
  • [July 17] Rajesh Vellakat, Financial Express, Personal Data Protection Bill: Will it disrupt our data ecosystem?
  • [July 17] Nouriel Roubini, Live Mint Opinion, Seychelles-based BitMEX and the great crypto heist.
  • [July 17] Tim O’Reilly, Quartz, Antitrust regulators are using the wrong tools to break up Big Tech.
  • [July 18] Tiana Zhang, Jodi Wu, Yue Qiu and Richard Sharpe, Mondaq, Newly released draft measures on data security management strengthen China’s data protection framework.
  • [July 18] Gwyn D’Mello, India Times, If you worry about FaceApp and not your Facebook and Aadhaar, you have bigger problems.
  • [July 18] Sue Halpern, The New Yorker, How Cyber Weaqpons are changing the landscape of modern warfare.
  • [July 19] TV Mohandas Pai and Umakant Soni, Financial Express, An AI innovation engine for New India.
  • [July 20] Amit Cowshish, The Tribune, Indo-US defence trade not free from encumbrances.
  • [July 20] Umberto Sulpasso, Eurasia Review, Domestic Knowledge Product: Enhancing Wealth, Welfare and National Security—Analysis.
  • [July 20] Tiffancy C Li, The Atlantic, FaceApp makes today’s privacy laws look antiquated.
  • [July 20] Tom Robinson, Venture Beat, Crypto can prevent money laundering better than traditional finance.
  • [July 21] Vimal Kumar Kashyap, The Pioneer, 5G to usher in fourth industrial revolution.
  • [July 21] Michael Ashley, Forbes, It’s time to fight back for data sovereignty.
  • [July 22] Vidushi Marda, The Hindu, Facial recognition is an invasive and inefficient tool.

[July 8-15] CCG’s Week in Review: Curated News in Information Law and Policy

The Parliament passed the Aadhaar Amendment Bill, expected to have a far-reaching impact on data sharing with private companies and State Governments; France rolled out a new “digital tax” for Big Tech, Facebook slapped with a massive $5bn fine by the US FTC, while uncertainty over Huawei’s inclusion in India’s 5G trials deepens  — presenting this week’s most important developments in law and tech.

In focus this week: opinions and analyses of the Defence Budget for 2019-20.

Aadhaar

  • [July 8] Parliament passes Aadhaar amendment bill, The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [July 8] RS clears bill on voluntary use of Aadhaar as ID proof, Live Mint report.
  • [July 8] Techie moves Madras High Court assailing compulsory linking of Aadhaar with Universal Account Number (UAN) to avail EPFO pension, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 9] You are not bound to share Aadhaar data with schools, banks and telcos, DNA India report.
  • [July 9] ‘Ordinance on Aadhaar use doesn’t survive as House has cleared the Bill’: Centre tells SC, The Hindu report.
  • [July 10] Aadhaar Bill passage in Parliament: New clause helps secure non-NDA votes, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 11] PAN not linked to Aadhaar will become invalid from September, Business Standard report.
  • [July 11] Aadhaar amendments: New clause to allow use of Aadhaar data for state schemes, Live Mint report.
  • [July 11] Amendment: no Aadhaar for mobile wallet firms, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 11] All your Aadhaar fears are coming true in Assam, HuffPost India report.
  • [July 13] Rajya Sabha passes Aadhaar amendment Bill, allows to file complaint in case of security breach, India Today report.
  • [July 14] You may soon have to pay Rs. 10,000 as fine for entering wrong Aadhaar number for transactions, New 18 report.

Free Speech

  • [July 9] Twitter backs off broad limits on ‘Dehumanizing Speech’, The New York Times report.
  • [July 10] TikTok influencers charged for hate speech and attempting to incite communal violence, Business Insider report.
  • [July 13] White House Social Media recap, National Public Radio report, CNN report, The New York Times report, Engadget report. The Verge report.
  • [July 13] FIRs against 10 for poems that try to ‘hinder NRC’ in Assam, Times of India report.
  • [July 15] RSS wing calls for TikTok, Helo ban, The Economic Times report.

Data Protection

  • [July 8] Indian parliament members call for Data Protection Bill and TikTok ban, Inc42 report.
  • [July 8] British Airways fined record 183 million for data breach involving 500,000 customers: report, Medianama report, BBC report.
  • [July 9] Digital data protection to be a fundamental right in Brazil as amendment to constitution is approved, Medianama report.
  • [July 12] Not ‘Okay Google’: Firms admits that workers listen to audio from Assistant, Home, Medianama report, Fox News report, VRT News report.
  • [July 12] Google data breach faces review by Irish privacy watchdog, Bloomberg report.
  • [July 13] Facebook fined $ 5 billion by US regulators over privacy and data protection lapses, News 18 report, The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [July 13] Indian Govt is selling vehicle owner data to companies and citizens don’t have a clue, Inc42 report, Entrackr report.
  • [July 15] Data protection law must be the same for both private and government players, The New Indian Express report.

Digital India

  • [July 15] PMO panel seeks multinational companies’ inputs on making India electronics hub, ET Telecom report.

Data Localisation and E-Commerce

  • [July 11] Gautam Adani woos Amazon and Google with Indian data hubs, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 9] A tug of war hots the draft e-commerce policy. US tech giants want leeway in data localisation, ET Prime report. [paywall]
  • [July 15] Delhi and Bengaluru customs stop clearing ‘gifts’, Economic Times report, Medianama report.

Telecom/5G

  • [July 15] Inter-ministerial panel clears draft RFP to select auctioneer for 2019 spectrum sale, ET Telecom report.

More on Huawei

  • [July 10] Huawei makes Monaco world’s fully 5G country, Live Mint report.
  • [July 10] Huawei ban eased but tech can’t relax, Financial Times report.
  • [July 11] NSAB members, Chinese diplomat cross swords over Huawei, Indian Express report.
  • [July 12] Doubts over Huawei’s participation in India’s 5G rollout deepen, Live Mint report, NDTV Gadgets 360 report.
  • [July 14] Huawei plans extensive layoffs at its US operations, Live Mint report, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 13] US tells Britain: Fall in line over China and Huawei, or no trade deal, The Telegraph report
  • [July 14] US seeks to discredit UK spies in war against Huawei, The Times UK report.

Big Tech: Regulation

  • [July 11] France passes law taxing digital giants in defiance of US anger, Agence France Presse report.
  • [July 10] US Announces Inquiry of French Digital Tax that may end in tariffs, The New York Times report.

Cryptocurrencies

  • [July 9] Indian govt to educate top cops on cryptocurrencies, aiming to investigate crypto matters, CrytpoNewZ report.
  • [July 9] Facebook to Senators: Libra crypto will respect privacy, Coin Desk report.
  • [July 11] Winklevoss-backed crypto self-regulatory group prepares to woo congress, Coin Desk report.
  • [July 12] Japanese crypto exchange hacked, loses $ 32 million, The Hindu Business Line report, Coin Telegraph report.
  • [July 13] Study exposes how Russia, Iran and China are weaponizing crypto, CNN report.
  • [July 13] China’s illegal crypto mining crackdown could ignite a bitcoin price rally, CNN report.
  • [July 15] IRS confirms it trained staff to find crypto wallets, Coin Desk report.

Emerging Tech

  • [July 9] AI in cybersecurity expected to surpass $38 billion, Security Boulevard report.
  • [July 14] How aritifical intelligence is solving different business problems, Financial Express report.
  • [July 14] Why AI is the future of cybersecurity, Forbes report.

Cybersecurity

  • [July 8] Chinese hackers demonstrate their global cyber espionage reach with breach at 10 of the world’s biggest telecoms, CPO Magazine report.
  • [July 12] Businesses in India tapping AI to improve cybersecurity, The Economic Times report, Fortune India report.
  • [July 15] Indian IT managers facing budget crunch for cybersecurity, The Economic Times report.

Tech and Law Enforcement: Surveillance and Cyber Crime

  • [July 8] NCRB invites bids to implement Automated Facial Recognition System, Medianama report.
  • [July 9]  The chase gets a lot easier for tech-wielding cops now, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 9] Delhi government begins installing CCTV cameras inside classrooms to prevent crime: report, Medianama report. Times now News report.
  • [July 10] Instagram announces two new anti-bullying features, Instagram’s announcement, Thw Wall Street Journal report, Medianama report.
  • [July 11] WhatsApp messages can be traced without diluting encryption, Zee News report.
  • [July 12] New POCSO bill to expand child porn definition to include anime, adults posing depicting children, Medianma report, Hindustan Times report.
  • [July 12] SC refuses to stay installation of CCTV cameras in Delhi Government schools, Medianama report, Bar & Bench report.

Tech and Military

  • [July 8] Japan-India security cooperation: Asian giants to expand their relations to Space, Financial Express report.
  • [July 8] Bill to tag individuals as ‘terrorist’ introduced in LS, Opposition protests: The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Amendment Bill, 2019, Business Standard report
  • [July 8] Government introduces Bill in Lok Sabha to amend National Investigation Agency Act, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 8] Govt to procure 1.86 lakh bullet proof jackets by April next, The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [July 8] India, Russia agree on new payment mode for S-400 deal to get around US sanctions, The Print report.
  • [July 9] National e-Governance Division to revamp management app for the army, The Week report.
  • [July 9] Amazon, Microsoft wage war over the Pentagon’s ‘war cloud’,  NDTV Gadgets 360 report
  • [July 10] Last chance to get tech: Navy says negotiating next 6 subs to take years, Business Standard report.
  • [July 10] Tactical communications market size in the US region is projected to experience substantial proceeds by 2024, Tech Mag report.
  • [July 11] Govt says looking at tech to seal northern and eastern borders, Live Mint report.
  • [July 11] Army man arrested for leaking info on national security, The Tribune report.
  • [July 12] Wait for sniper rifles gets longer, MoD retracts the RFP issued last year, Financial Express report.
  • [July 12] India, Russia discuss space cooperation, The Hindu report
  • [July 12] Israel arms company signs $100 million missile deal with Indian army, Middle East Monitor report.

Defense Budget: Reports and Analyses

  • [July 8] Budget 2019: India redirects foreign aid to Indian ocean countries, NSCS expenditure hiked, Business Standard report.
  • [July 8] Laxman K Behera, Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, India’s Defence budget 2019-20.
  • [July 8] PK Vasudeva, Deccan Herald, An alarming fall: Defence Budget 2019-20.
  • [July 8] Mihir S Sharma, Business Standard, Budget 2019: India won’t become a superpower with these allocations.
  • [July 9] PRS Legislative Research’s analysis: Ministry of Defence Demands for Grants 2019-20.
  • [July 9] Why Sitharaman’s budgetary allocation is unlikely to satisfy defence establishment, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 10] Brahma Chellaney, Hindustan Times, India’s defence planning has no clear strategic direction.
  • [July 10] Harsh V Pant, Live Mint Opinion, We need not whine about India’s small defence budget.
  • [July 12] Commodore Anil Jai Singh, Financial Express, Budget 2019: Optimising the Defence Budget and the need for organizational reform.
  • [July 13] Shekhar Gupta, The Print, Modi isn’t about to change India into national security state like Pakistan and bankrupt it.
  • [July 13] Budget 2019: Cybersecurity – a holy grail for government’s Digital India dream, Financial Express analysis.
  • [July 15] Ravi Shanker Kapoor, News 18 Opinion, Cost of not carrying out economic reforms: acute shortage of funds for military modernization.

Opinions and Anlayses

  • [July 8] Adam Bemma, Al Jazeera, Is Sri Lanka using the Easter attacks to limit digital freedom?
  • [July 9] Dr M Suresh Babu and Dr K Bhavana Raj, The Hans India, Data Protection Bill – boon or bane for digital economy?
  • [July 8] Walter Olson, The CATO Institute blog, One year later, the harms of Europe’s data-privacy law.
  • [July 8]  Jack Parrock, Euro News, The Brief: Data privacy v. surveillance transatlantic clash.
  • [July 9] Abhijit Mukhopadhyaya and Nishant Jha, ORF, Amidst US-China standoff Huawei battles for survival.
  • [July 10] Kuldip Kunmar, The Economic Times, Budget 2019 shows govt’s will to use Aadhaar to track financial transactions.
  • [July 11] Darryn Pollock, Forbes, Is Facebook forming a crypto mafia as Libra foundation members boost each other’s businesses?
  • [July 12] Amitendu Palit, Financial Express, India ditches data dialogue again.
  • [July 12] Shantanu Roy-Chaudhary, The Diplomat, India-China-Sri Lanka Triangle: The Defense Dimension.
  • [July 12] Richard A Clarke and Robert K Knake, The Wall Street Journal, US companies learn to defend themselves in cyberspace.
  • [July 12] Simon Chandler, Coin Telegraph, US Sanctions on Iran Crypto Mining— Inevitable or Impossible?
  • [July 12] Shekhar Chnadra, Scientific American, What to expect from India’s second Moon mission.
  • [July 14] Agnidipto Tarafder and Siddharth Sonkar, The Wire, Will the Aadhaar Amendment Bill Pass Judicial Scrutiny?
  • [July 14] Scott Williams, Live Wire, Your crypto overlords are coming…
  • [July 15] Why Google cloud hasn’t picked up yet in India, ET Telecom report

A New Agenda for Digital Trade: Ideas from Brussels

By Puneeth Nagaraj

This author was one of the participants in the strategy meeting at the invitation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

The Strategy Meeting on Catalyzing Reform of Trade Negotiation Processes was held last week in Brussels. Convened by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), it brought a diverse group of actors to chart an agenda to engage with trade negotiations in the emerging area of Digital Trade. Representatives from civil society groups, academia and the private sector met together to suggest solutions to make trade negotiations more transparent and accessible.

The meeting was prompted by the recent conclusion of the Trans Pacific Partnership and its inclusion of an e-commerce chapter. The TPP is the first of many new generation trade agreements- which include both mega regional and plurilateral agreements- which are increasingly making trade rules that affect the internet. Given that there is a global internet governance regime which does not create any hard law obligations, there is a danger of the trade law regime becoming the de facto international rules on the subject.

To address this pressing concern, the EFF convened policy practitioners and experts from both the internet governance and trade fields. Participants highlighted the need for research at the intersection of these diverse fields to understand the impact of trade agreements on the internet and the information society. The larger and more immediate concern of all participants was of the confidentiality under which these negotiations are being conducted. This is also at odds with the participatory norms of various internet governance institutions which count for openness, transparency and accountability as their governing ideals.

Aside from the diverging approaches to participatory norms and governance, trade agreements are also at odds with internet governance frameworks. For instance, many internet governance fora are multistakeholder platforms which allow for the participation of the civil society, private sector and technical communities on equal footing with governments. Trade agreements or even institutions like the World Trade Organization are multilateral and allow for very little access to other stakeholders.

The approach of trade agreements to substantive issues reduce the regulatory space available on many internet-related rules. Trade agreements aim to promote trade through liberalization. This often leads to a commercialised or commoditised approach to many of the issues they make rules on. This is evidenced from the debates and cases on issues like environment and intellectual property where policies of national governments taken in public interest have come in to question. Such a commoditized framework of rules has already been extended to the internet by the TPP. It is perhaps telling that the chapter that deals with internet related issues is called the ‘E-commerce’ chapter. However, many of the provisions of the chapter go beyond e-commerce and contains rules on issues like privacy, data transfers and net neutrality- which are core internet governance issues. Coupled with a dispute resolution mechanism, the trade regime on the internet could potentially subsume internet related policy making at the international level.

With these problems in mind, the participants at the meeting, had to come up with workable strategies to engage with trade negotiations on internet-related issues. The meeting split into breakout groups that looked at 3 broad issues: 1) transparency and new norms, 2) advocacy and liaison with allies and 3) civil society funding, capacity building and coordination. Some solutions like creating a civil society coordination group and creating a space for multistakeholder engagement were on process. Others, like creating expert groups and producing research at the intersection of these two new areas were on substance.

The strategy meeting was very useful in terms of bringing together a group of experts from two different fields. It also made everyone alive to the challenges that lay ahead in the intersectional area of internet and trade. The strategies that were suggested also reflected this diversity of thought with a mix of ideas from the trade and internet governance worlds.  The meeting concluded with efforts to draft a common statement which left the participants with a rich agenda for future work on internet and trade issues.

Puneeth Nagaraj is a Project Managers at the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi

To B2B or Not: Brief on E-Commerce and FDI Policy in India

By Madhulika Srikumar

Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw when hearing a petition in the Delhi High Court on the 23rd of September this year had this to say about ecommerce, “Prima facie, the Union of India/State Governments cannot, on the one hand, for the purpose of tax, treat such sales as retail and on the other hand, for the purposes of investment, not treat the same as retail sale”.  This effectively sums up the confusion around ecommerce and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy in India. Whether ecommerce should be considered as B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer) under the FDI Policy is the question.

The above petition was filed by the Retailers Association of India (RAI) and the All India Footwear Manufacturers and Retailers Association (AIFMRA) seeking clarity on FDI in e-commerce, arguing that ecommerce companies have been acting like retailers which is in violation of the current FDI norms. In the beginning of this month, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) had also raised similar objections in a complaint sent to the Secretary of Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The letter in particular singled out Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal for flouting FDI regulations when offering huge discounts during the festive season sales. The commerce ministry in turn has requested the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and RBI to look into these companies and examine if they are indeed engaging in retailing activity.

This is not the first time that these ecommerce companies have been pulled up by the authorities. A similar probe was said to have been carried out by the ED placing Flipkart under the scanner back in late 2012. None of them to date have been found to be violating the FDI Policy to date. This could change with the Delhi High Court issuing a notice in the above case to the government (the matter is said to be heard by the High Court sometime soon) directing them to file their affidavit on the matter.

At this point there is no doubt about the increasing importance that ecommerce is going to play in India’s economy, with the industry said to cross the $100-billion mark over the next five years according to an Assocham-Pricewaterhouse Coopers study. Meanwhile the regulatory landscape for ecommerce looks quite shaky and that includes the FDI regulations.

Regulatory Framework for FDI

FDI in India is regulated under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA). The Ministry of Commerce comes out with the investment policy and the amendments in consultation with the DIPP. This is then notified by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) through press notes and circulars. It is the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) that carries out investigations when it comes to possible violations of FDI Policy.  Penalty under the Act can go up to thrice the sum[1] involved for the guilty entity resulting in the possibility of Flipkart facing a whopping 1400 crore penalty had the earlier ED probe in 2014 found them guilty.  This kind of penalty can reduce a company to bankruptcy quite easily.

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This is what Amazon’s options look like currently

Now India‘s FDI Policy (Consolidated FDI Policy, 2015) permits FDI up to 100% in e-commerce activities.[2] This however applies only to B2B ecommerce (under the Automatic Route) and not to online retailers/e-retailers also known as B2C ecommerce[3]. B2B stands for Business to Business where the trading is between business entities such as manufacturers and wholesalers or between wholesalers and retailers. B2C on the other hand stands for Business to Consumers where online businesses sell directly to the customers.

In September 2012, the Indian government allowed 51% FDI in multi-brand retail, subject to certain conditions. Whereas retail trading in ecommerce for companies with FDI (single[4] or multi brand[5]) is not allowed under the FDI Policy. The 51% FDI limit in multi-brand retail is subject to some conditions where the states take the final call, which might be difficult to translate into ecommerce which has no geographical boundaries.

All this is not to say that Amazon and the rest haven’t found a way out under the existing FDI framework to attract foreign investment. Amazon follows what is known as the marketplace model that is compliant with the FDI Policy of India. A marketplace model in ecommerce, as a Snapdeal spokesperson explained, “(Snapdeal) is a technology platform that connects sellers with buyers to facilitate transactions”. In the marketplace model, the ecommerce company only engages in the activity of buying and selling which is considered B2B and not retail trading under the Policy (see footnote n.3). Therefore under this model the ecommerce company does not carry out any retail transactions and does not directly sell anything to the customer. Instead the ecommerce platform earns commission from sellers of goods/services for their services. This move to operate as a marketplace enables Amazon[6]and Flipkart which are both majority-owned by foreign investors to still function in the Indian market without running afoul of the FDI Policy.

What Amazon can’t do is run an inventory based model. In this model, ownership of goods and services and the marketplace vests with the same entity. As a comparison India is said to be the only one among a list of developed and developing economies that does not allow FDI in inventory based ecommerce. Keep in mind that in the marketplace model, ownership of the inventory vests with the enterprises who are the ultimate sellers of the goods/services.

Does Ecommerce fall under B2B or B2C?

This section looks at what CAIT, AIFMRA and other brick and mortar associations are complaining about when it comes to e-commerce companies like Amazon, Flipkart among others. Their primary concern is that e-commerce companies are acting like B2C retailers while enjoying foreign investment that is only legal for B2B enterprises.

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One of the possible FDI Models as laid out in the paper by Arkay & Arkay and Medianama

The CAIT has pointed out that the intensive advertising campaigns carried by the marketplaces should not be considered B2B activity as these initiatives are directed towards the consumers to promote their sales.  Further, the CAIT questions how these ecommerce platforms offer such massive discounts when they have no inventory at their disposal. AIFRMA in their Delhi HC petition argued that marketplaces in ecommerce in India operate as retailers since the payment, delivery, returns and refund are all handled by these companies.

The other accusation made against these companies is that they do in fact have inventories and do not perform as mere marketplaces. In September 2014, the ED was directed to look into Amazon and examine if they are making the sales instead of the vendors. The Karnataka Government also had suspicions about the “fulfillment centres” belonging to Amazon alleging that Amazon “owned” the products in such centres.  Interestingly when Flipkart was incorporated in 2008, it started out as an inventory-based B2C model that had to be changed to the B2B marketplace model after raising foreign funds in 2012.  The change however was made only in April 2013 leading to an investigation by the ED on Flipkart functioning as a B2C with FDI during 2012-2013. Again, none of these ecommerce companies have ever been found to be violating FDI Policy.

While the marketplace model is practiced by Amazon, Flipkart and others, there are also other structures through which foreign investors can enter the Indian ecommerce market legally.  One of the structures for instance can be found in the image above.  The Delhi HC petition also addressed concerns that ecommerce companies have been creating complex business structures to evade the law. One such case study is that of Amazon Asia’s stake in Cloudtail (see image below), one of the largest sellers on Amazon India. Amazon through Cloudtail can therefore dictate pricing among other things and in effect acts like a retailer. This of course pales in comparison when it comes to Flipkart and their dominant seller WS Retail that accounts for 85% of the total products sold on the portal over the past three years.  Flipkart does have operational control over WS Retail even now. This, after the famous corporate restructuring that Flipkart carried out in 2012 which included the divesting of WS Retail.  Ecommerce companies are doing all this to make sure that the companies are an arm’s length from directly selling to the consumers.

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Amazon being clever: image from ISID paper by Rahul Nath Choudhury

Way Forward

Which brings us to the next question of whether companies should be penalized for creating such business structures or is it time to allow for FDI in B2C ecommerce instead? The DIPP considered the pros and cons of doing so in their Discussion Paper that came out in January 2014 and sought out public opinion. The government has held discussions with several stakeholders including ecommerce companies and bodies such as FICCI, NASSCOM and CII this year. There have also been several reports of foreign retailers like Amazon and Ebay lobbying with the Indian government to permit FDI in online retail in India. It is clear that there are valid arguments both for allowing FDI in e-retail and not. It is crucial however that the government decides on this soon to ensure that the current FDI framework is not manipulated and its purpose defeated. It is also worth exploring how the government can impose conditions (and what conditions) on companies with FDI in online retail, if it were to be allowed.

Fundamentally more clarity is required with respect to the definition of the term marketplace and the difference between retail and wholesale trading[7] on online platforms. With FDI not being the only regulatory concern for ecommerce in India, seeing as concerns regarding taxation of these goods/services and anti-competitive behavior by these companies have also been brought out, maybe it is not a bad idea to go back to the drawing board to figure out the definition of ecommerce in India. A better understanding of what ecommerce in India entails will help characterize it either as B2B or online retail which in turn can bring the “violations of FDI Policy” debate to an end.  Answers are expected soon from the government after the commerce and industry ministry received responses from various states on this matter a few days ago. The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy in a report has proposed for a law to be passed by the Parliament under Entry 42 of the Union List[8] to govern goods/services of online marketplaces and those sold directly on the Internet. Moving forward a uniform policy on ecommerce across states will provide much-needed clarity albeit it has to be done in the near future.

[1] As per S.13 of FEMA, 1999, penalty imposed can be thrice the sum involved in the contravention where such amount is quantifiable.

[2] DIPP Press Note No. 8 of 2015, Annexure 1, paragraph 6.2.16.2.1 allows 100% FDI in B2B Ecommerce activities.

[3] Under paragraph 6.2.16.2.1 of the Consolidated FDI Policy of 2015 (effective from May 12, 2015), 100% FDI is permitted only in B2B ecommerce activities, “E-commerce activities refer to the activity of buying and selling by a company through the e-commerce platform. Such companies would engage only in Business to Business (B2B) e-commerce and not in retail trading, inter-alia implying that existing restrictions on FDI in domestic trading would be applicable to ecommerce as well.”

[4] Under paragraph 6.2.16.3 of the Consolidated FDI Policy of 2015, “Retail trading, in any form, by means of e-commerce, would not be permissible, for companies with FDI, engaged in the activity of single-brand retail trading.”

[5]  Paragraph 6.2.16.4 of the Policy provides, “Retail trading, in any form, by means of e-commerce, would not be permissible, for companies with FDI, engaged in the activity of multi-brand retail trading.”

[6] Amazon India (Amazon Sellers Services Private Limited) for instance was set up as a wholly owned subsidiary by Amazon Asia-Pacific Resources Pvt. Ltd., Singapore in 2012, incorporated in Bangalore. They had entered the Indian ecommerce market before through the acquisition of Junglee.com way back in 1998 which came into operation in 2012. Junglee.com, a price comparison website, was also set up under the marketplace model.

[7] Currently under paragraph 6.2.16 of the Consolidated FDI Policy of 2015, B2B ecommerce is considered as wholesale trading.

[8]  Entry 42 of the Union List covers inter-state trade and commerce.

(Madhulika Srikumar is a Research Assistant at CCG and a final year student at GNLU)