Cross Border Data Flows

What’s Shaping India’s Policy on Cross-Border Data Flows?

in How India and Korea Can Drive New Thinking About Data published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, August 2022

The paper discusses how India’s unique position on cross border data flows is being shaped by a mix of evolving domestic priorities and the multiple identities that the country straddles on the international stage. It analysis outlines the actions and instruments shaping India’s current and proposed restrictions on cross-border data flows followed by an overview of the drivers of data flow restrictions in India, as laid out in expert committee reports, regulatory directives, and other policy documents. Next, the paper widens the lens of analysis from a local perspective to a global one by outlining the strategic and geopolitical dimensions of India’s participation in international conversations on data flows. It also looks beyond the issue of commercial data transfers to focus on the actions India has taken to facilitate law enforcement access to data through mechanisms like mutual legal assistance treaties (MLATs). 


Rishab Bailey and Smriti Parsheera

CSI Transactions on ICT, Volume 9, Issue 3, September 2021

This paper examines the debates around data localization in India, using the term to mean any kind of mandatory requirements of local storage or processing of data within the country. We focus on the policy motivations and challenges of data localization, mapping these arguments into three broad categories of the civil liberties perspective, the government functions perspective, and the economic perspective. This is followed by an examination of the robustness of the policy processes through which such norms are being introduced in India. We focus on three policy initiatives—the Personal Data Protection Bill, the Reserve Bank of India’s payments directive, and the localization conditions in telecommunication licenses. We find each of these processes to be lacking in terms of robustness, transparency, and deliberative policy making with the data protection discussions faring better than the other two initiatives. 


Rishab Bailey and Smriti Parsheera

NIPFP Working Paper 242, 31 October 2018

The subject of data localisation has garnered significant attention in recent policy debates in India. This paper classifies the arguments around data localisation into three broad categories - the civil liberties perspective; the government functions perspective and the economic perspective. We examine the likely costs and benefits under each of these heads and come to the conclusion that it would be premature to adopt any sweeping localisation norms in India. At the same time, India must not will away its ability to adopt such measures in future by agreeing to sweeping 'free flow of data' provisions in trade agreements. The identification of cases where narrowly tailored localisation requirements might be an appropriate response should be done through a transparent and consultative process. Where an assessment of the over all costs and benefits justifies a case for localisation, it should be adopted in its least intrusive form

Paper | Blog post