US tech giants plan to fight India’s data localization plans

An Indian man takes a picture of the Taj Mahal. India wants to compel technology companies to store their data locally, triggering a backlash from some firms. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 August 2018
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US tech giants plan to fight India’s data localization plans

  • Global efforts to protect data on the rise
  • Technology giants plan lobbying offensive

NEW DELHI: US technology giants plan to intensify lobbying efforts against stringent Indian data localization requirements, which they say will undermine their growth ambitions in India, sources told Reuters.

UStrade groups, representing companies such as Amazon, American Express and Microsoft, have opposed India’s push to store data locally. That push comes amid rising global efforts to protect user data but is one that could hit planned investments by the firms in the Indian market, where the companies currently have limited data storage.
The issue could further undermine already strained economic relations between India and the US.

Technology executives and trade groups have discussed approaching Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office to appraise him of their worries. Separately, the industry is considering pitching the issue as a trade concern, including at the India-US talks in September in New Delhi, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Though a final decision hasn’t been made, the deliberations come while the US and India are locked in a dispute over US tariff increases and on the Indian policy of capping prices of medical devices, which hurts American pharmaceutical companies.

“This issue is important enough to be discussed at the India-US trade level,” said Amba Kak, a global public policy adviser at the Internet company Mozilla Corp.
“Data localization is not just a business concern, it potentially makes government surveillance easier, which is a worry.”

Stricter localization norms would help India get easier access to data when conducting investigations, but critics say it could lead to increased government demands for data access.

Technology firms worry the mandate would hurt their planned investments by raising costs related to setting up new local data centers.

Greater use of digital platforms in India for shopping or social networking have made it a lucrative market for technology companies, but a rising number of data breaches have pushed New Delhi to develop strong data protection rules.

Shamika Ravi, a member of Modi’s economic advisory council, said data localization was a global phenomena and India wasn’t an outlier.
“It’s in the long term strategic and economic interest,” said Ravi, who is also a research director at Brookings India.

The main government committee on data privacy last month proposed a draft law, recommending restrictions on data flows and proposing that all “critical personal data” should be processed only within the country. It would be left to the government to define what qualifies as such data.

Global companies are coming together to push back.

In a meeting last week organized by lobby group US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, executives from Facebook, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, PayPal , Amazon, Microsoft and others discussed plans to approach Indian lawmakers, including Indian parliamentary panels on information technology (IT) and finance, five sources said.
The industry also discussed approaching media and Internet groups to explain why data localization would be bad for India’s booming IT, e-commerce and payments landscape, the sources said.

“People are fairly stressed and scared,” said an executive working for a multinational technology firm.

The US-India lobby group said it was “nearly impossible” to implement “industry-specific regulations in our global data environment without the ripples being felt.” It didn’t comment on its recent meeting, but said it will continue facilitating policy discussions.

Mastercard, American Express and Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment, while Facebook, Microsoft, Visa and PayPal declined to comment.

The Indian bill, which was opened for public comments this week, will later go to parliament for approval.
The US-India Business Council, a lobby group that is part of the US Chamber of Commerce, has brought in the Washington-headquartered law firm Covington & Burling to suggest submissions on India’s data protection law.

The firm’s 43-page draft recommendations, seen by Reuters, listed removing data localization requirements as a top priority and called New Delhi’s proposed move a “protectionist approach.”

The US-India Business Council didn’t comment on how it would act on the recommendations of Covington & Burling, which declined comment.
The lobby group’s president, Nisha Biswal, however said India’s draft privacy law was of “great importance,” and that the group would share its concerns with the government directly.


Fraudsters exploit interest in Libra digital currency

Updated 7 min ago
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Fraudsters exploit interest in Libra digital currency

  • Fake Libra opportunities or offerings have popped up on Facebook and Instagram
  • Criminals routinely seize on hot topics to try to dupe people online
SAN FRANCISCO: Fraudsters are out to cash in on interest in Facebook-backed digital currency Libra, hawking bogus buying opportunities at online venues including the social network itself.
Libra is to launch next year, overseen by an association based in Europe, but as with other hot topics it has been seized on by nefarious characters intent on tricking people with false accounts, pages, and information.
Fake Libra opportunities or offerings have popped up on Facebook’s main social network and its image-centric online community Instagram, according to a report Monday in the Washington Post.
A number of Libra-themed deceptive accounts were removed from the Facebook platform after the California-based company was alerted by the Post, according to the publication.
Some of the fake accounts used the official Facebook logo and photos of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
“Facebook removes ads and Pages that violate our policies when we become aware of them, and we are constantly working to improve detection of scams on our platforms,” the Internet titan said in response to an AFP inquiry.
The Libra Association was reported to be working with Facebook to get deceptive pages about the currency deleted.
Criminals routinely seize on hot topics to try to dupe people online, from natural disasters and major tragedies to celebrity news.
A buylibracoins.com website accessible Monday offered a fake chance to buy the digital currency, encouraging potential victims to share contact details of friends in a referral program.
Fraudsters were said to be setting also hunting for victims at other online venues such as Twitter and YouTube.
The rise of fake Libra offerings comes as Facebook tries to dispel worries and build trust in what it hopes will be a global currency that gives life-changing financial tools to people around the world.
G7 finance ministers and central bankers last week dealt a blow to Facebook’s planned new cryptocurrency Libra, issuing a barrage of warnings about its dangers for the global economy at a two-day meeting outside Paris.
Facebook in June unveiled its plans for Libra in an announcement greeted with concern by governments and critics of the social network behemoth, whose reputation has already been tarnished by its role in spreading fake information and extremist videos.
Ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) major global economies “agreed that projects such as Libra may affect monetary sovereignty and the functioning of the international monetary system,” France, the current G7 chair, said in a statement.
It said projects like Libra with a “global and potentially systemic footprint... raise serious regulatory and systemic concerns, as well as wider policy issues, which both need to be addressed before such projects can be implemented.”
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his concerns about Libra and other cryptocurrencies — which he had made clear in White House news conference this month — were shared by G7 counterparts.
Libra is widely regarded as a challenger to dominant global player bitcoin. Expected to launch in the first half of 2020, Libra is designed to be backed by a basket of currency assets to avoid the wild swings of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.