(Panel) India Privacy Act And What It Means For CISOs

If you're a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) or a cybersecurity professional, you're undoubtedly aware of the ever-evolving landscape of data protection and privacy regulations. In recent years, India has made significant strides in this arena with the introduction of the India Privacy Act. We'll dive into the key highlights and implications of this act, and we have some renowned legal experts to guide us through the intricacies.

Meet the Experts

Our esteemed panel of experts includes:

  • Advocate Dr. Pavan Duggal (Supreme Court of India; Expert Authority in Cyberlaw)
  • Advocate (Dr.) Prashant Mali (Cyber Law and Data Protection Lawyer, Bombay High Court)
  • Advocate Puneet Bhasin (Cyber & Data Protection Laws Expert, Founder- Cyberjure Legal Consulting & Cyberjure Academy)
  • Bikash Barai (Co-founder CISOPlatform, Firecompass)


(Panel Discussion) Recorded


Key Highlights of the India Privacy Act

1. Intent Matters

One of the most striking aspects of the India Privacy Act is its emphasis on intent. The concept of personal data breach under this act encompasses unauthorized sharing of data, whether intentional or not. This means that even unintentional data breaches can have legal repercussions. So, if you're a CISO, you must be prepared to demonstrate that you took reasonable security measures and conducted data audits to safeguard against data breaches.

2. Personal Data

The act merges sensitive personal data and personally identifiable data into one category, known as "personal data." This means that anything that identifies an individual, such as their name, health data, email ID, or IP address, falls under the purview of the act. This consolidation broadens the scope of data protection and places more responsibility on data fiduciaries and processors.

3. The Merger of Data Categories

Unlike previous laws, the India Privacy Act merges sensitive personal data and personally identifiable data into a single category – personal data. This means that any information that can identify an individual, from their name to their health data or email address, falls under this broader definition. CISOs need to be aware of the expanded scope and adapt their security measures accordingly.


Who Does the India Privacy Act Apply To?

The act casts a wide net, applying to almost every legal entity in India. Whether you're a large corporation, a startup, a healthcare provider, or a cooperative housing society, if you handle personal data, you're subject to the provisions of the act. This means that there's no escape from compliance for any organization, big or small.


Penalties and Liabilities

The India Privacy Act introduces substantial penalties for non-compliance. The fines can go up to 250 crore rupees, and they can be levied per breach or per record, depending on the severity of the data breach. The act is not lenient on organizations, and even smaller entities can face significant financial and legal consequences.

While the act does not explicitly include criminal liabilities, it does not absolve organizations from other existing laws, such as the Information Technology Act 2000 and the Indian Penal Code. Violations of these laws can lead to criminal charges, making it crucial for CISOs to ensure comprehensive compliance.


Impact on Enterprises and Startups

The India Privacy Act does not distinguish between large enterprises and startups when it comes to compliance. Both are equally bound by the act's provisions, and they must adhere to data protection regulations. This includes obtaining explicit consent for data processing, maintaining a consent management system, and providing a means for individuals to withdraw their consent.

Startups that handle sensitive data face the same level of responsibility as larger organizations. The source of the data and the scale of data processing do not exempt them from compliance. It's essential for all organizations, regardless of their size, to invest in educating their employees, developing consent management systems, and ensuring data security.


Formula for Penalties

The India Privacy Act does not specify a fixed percentage of revenue as a basis for calculating penalties, unlike the GDPR. Instead, it relies on a formula that considers factors such as the magnitude of the data breach, the nature of the data, and the level of negligence on the part of the organization. The formula is still in the process of being determined and may provide more clarity in the future.


Implications for CISOs

As a CISO, you're at the forefront of ensuring data security and compliance within your organization. Here's how the India Privacy Act will impact your role:

1. Extensive Training and Education

You'll need to invest in training and education for your team to ensure they understand the nuances of the Act. From consent management to understanding the parameters of the law, a well-informed team is your first line of defense.

2. Consent Management

Consent management will become critical. You'll need to implement consent management software that provides explicit notice and allows individuals to withdraw their consent if needed. The Act emphasizes transparency in data processing and consent, ensuring data subjects are fully aware of how their information is used.

3. Data Localization

While data localization didn't make it into the Act, the onus is on organizations to ensure data security. CISOs need to consider the potential risks and advantages of data localization in their specific contexts, even in the absence of a specific mandate.

4. Data Classification and Protection

Given the Act's broader definition of personal data, a more comprehensive approach to data classification and protection is essential. This includes stricter controls on data access and sharing, encryption, and secure data storage.


Act Now

The India Privacy Act is a game-changer in the realm of data protection and privacy. As a cybersecurity professional, it's your responsibility to understand and implement the necessary measures to ensure compliance. The magnitude of the fines and the potential repercussions for non-compliance make it imperative to act now.

To stay updated and connect with a community of like-minded cybersecurity professionals, consider joining CISO Platform, a dedicated cybersecurity community. Sign up here and be part of a network that prioritizes knowledge sharing and continuous learning.


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