The myth of Pandora’s box, where opening a forbidden container unleashed the world’s evils but also hope, parallels scientific discovery. Each breakthrough, like CRISPR’s medical potential, brings unforeseen challenges, as seen with its controversial use in gene editing. Technologies intended for good, like the internet or drones, can be subverted for harm. Regulation alone can’t contain such knowledge; instead, we must design incentives to align technology use with societal goals, preparing us to handle the inevitable consequences of human curiosity.
The “Brussels Effect” is the phenomenon where other countries adopt regulation similar to the EU’s and as a result ends up extending Europe’s regulatory dominance. However, regulations like the GDPR have faced criticism for its burdensome compliance requirements. India’s DPI approach offers a new data governance model. But in order for this approach to be globally successful, strong regulatory institutions and a commitment to techno-legal governance are necessary.
The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill - that has been listed as one of the items for discussion in the Monsoon Session of Parliament - will, if enacted be a significant first step in the journey to a functional privacy regime. But there is still a lot to be done including issuing regulations and establishing the Data Protection Board.
The Information Technology Act, 2000 governs cyber incidents and data protection in India. A recent amendment permits certain negotiable instruments and real estate contracts to be executed digitally. Though narrow in scope, this change could significantly impact the financial and real estate sectors, fostering innovation and modernization.
In 2014, India’s ministry of law and justice issued a policy on pre-legislative consultation, partially drawing on OECD recommendations. While most legislative proposals in India set aside time for public comments, the consultation often appears to be a formality. We need to redesign the process so that stakeholders can approach the process constructively - recognizing that policy-making is a compromise, and that both government and stakeholders must be open to differing viewpoints.