THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With Sprinklr controversy reaching the High Court, the state government’s steps towards flattening the Covid-19 curve have proved to be a step towards attaining a learning curve on data privacy. The state, which has declared internet as a basic right, has debated the controversial deal inked with a US-based IT company Sprinklr. The controversy turned out to be Kerala ‘data gate’ moment which will have its ramification in future deals.
“The most important takeaway from the controversy is that it gave primary education to officers on the sanctity of data security and privacy,” said technology observer V K Adarsh. “The absence of awareness was evident in a few cases where the officers treated data casually.”
While all the IT experts TNIE spoke to supported the government’s decision taken at the time of a pandemic, questions have been raised on weak clauses made in the agreement. “The absence of a privacy law in the country is no excuse for making weak agreements. One can make the clauses in conformity with the country’s law,” said Adarsh.
The arguments that more personal data is available in the public domain and what the government collected was only basic information, have not gone down with the data privacy advocates. “Data can be misused in many ways. A pandemic situation does not give the right to a government to compromise on data privacy,” said Abraham C Mathews, an advocate who practices in the Supreme Court.
The experts have given instances where the data breaches could cause suffering to individuals. “What if the data of an expat who is Covid-19 affected is used against his future employment or a denial of an insurance claim? The individual may not even know that the adversity was caused due to the information given to the government. Even if she or he understood it, it would be a daunting task to prove it before a court. Hence the government needs to be doubly sure about what it is dealing with,” said an IT expert.
There are uncertainties over the data already uploaded to the Sprinklr’s server. The data privacy advocates are of the opinion that the court gave a simplistic opinion on the issue so far. The court has directed the government to anonymise all data that has been collected so far and allow Sprinklr to access data only after such a process is completed. “Anonymising the data has proved to be ineffective in many cases. It is not a fool-proof method as we have seen it in a few instances,” said Abraham.