India needs a cyber security law for data localisation: Experts

India should force companies to set up their servers in the country

CYBER-ATTACK/FAILURES Representational Image | Reuters

Vietnam recently approved a controversial cyber security law that would make it mandatory for internet giants like Google and Facebook to host servers in the country to share ''locally '' important data to enable the country to fight rising cyber crime. The developments in Vietam's National Assembly in Hanoi on June 12, where the law making process witnessed large-scale protests but was still approved, has been watched closely by the cyber security establishment in India. The law comes into effect on January 1, 2019. 

Notably, China had also passed a stringent cyber security law in June 2017. The law imposed serious legal liabilities on companies that breached its provisions .

The inability of Indian cyber security agencies to access data from the internet companies owing to the servers being hosted outside the country has been a major roadblock in the efforts to detect the offenders, punish them and curb cyber crime. 

The cyber security experts are once again pushing the government to consider the matter seriously so that India is not left vulnerable in the fast growing cyber space . 

“India with humongous cyber and social media consumers should have vigorously pursued the enactment of a stringent law for data localisation as these organisations do not pay heed to Indian law enforcement agencies. Now we need a political will to bring in a similar law and rules to govern social media giants. We need to enact such a law that we are able to handle the law and order problems that are triggered from the virtual world,'' said Prashant Mali, a Mumbai-based cyber security expert . 

Mali said data localisation is the key to resolving India's growing vulnerability in the cyber space. Till now, there has been little or no success in accessing data about offenders because there is no ''local data'' available, he said. 

In April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed that the servers, which carry the data of millions of users, should be located within the country to enable the law enforcement agencies access it. 

It may be recalled that the government has been requesting internet companies like Google, Facebook, WhatsApp to set up servers in the country for a decade. 

Nearly a decade ago, the government wanted Research in Motion, the Canadian company behind Blackberry smartphones, to set up severs in India so that the authorities could monitor the data. There were intelligence reports that terror groups and other anti-national elements had been misusing such services prompting the home ministry to take up the issue with them. It wasn't just Blackberry, India also wanted internet giants like Google to do the same. 

After a decade, the list has only grown longer with more apps and internet activities causing worry to the government. The level of misuse of such services has also increased multi-fold in the last one decade with hate messages, fake news, mob gatherings being responsible for law and order issues across states. However, not much success has been tasted in convincing these companies to set up their servers in India.