Microsoft, AWS and Adobe align to lobby against data localisation in India — but the issue goes beyond privacy

Microsoft, Adobe and AWS -- members of BSA, the software allianceBusiness Insider India

  • BSA, the software alliance, has launched a new international coalition to battle data localisation norms in India.
  • The alliance argues that it will hamper economic growth and bring in operational inefficiencies.
  • More than data, the Indian government’s concern is that when data is on global servers, they are left with little recourse in the event of a data breach.
India’s new data laws are asking companies to localise their data. Not just sensitive data — like names, numbers and addresses — but also non-sensitive data.

BSA, the Software Alliance, which includes tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Intel, and Adobe among others, has launched an international coalition to advocate for the ability to move data across borders.

"The seamless, trusted movement of information across borders drives the global economy forward. It supports innovation and job creation," said Victoria Espinel, president and CEO of BSA.
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The Global Data Alliance (GDA) — which also includes non-BSA members like Panasonic, Visa, and Mastercard — advocates that movement of information around the world is essential for businesses to build themselves.

They argue that data mobility will help the economy
From designing and creating new products and services to reaching new customers, GDA believes that non-sensitive data should be allowed to stay mobile. Restricting its movement will have far-reaching effects for every sector.

In farming, for example, most crop loss occurs due to the unpredictability of the weather. Predictive weather models and other precision agricultural techniques can help reduce risk by collecting data from thousands of sensors across countries and regions.
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For manufacturing too, IoT sensors with predictive analytics software can help reduce unplanned maintenance and factory downtime. However, in order to be efficient, it needs to perform real-time analysis using indicators from factories in different regions around the globe.

The health sector bears one of the more significant impacts. Using data from different countries, doctors can use patterns to identify how a disease may be moving or infecting people. Cross-referencing queries and insights can also better doctors deliver better diagnoses and cost-effective medical aid.

Why the government thinks data should stay in India
While it’s understandable that global companies feel that mobility is key to optimise their business flow, what they don’t point out is how it’s also a cost-saving mechanism. Every country has its own comparative advantage that companies leverage.
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The other concern is the amount of data that’s currently changing hands. More people are using the internet with first-time users expected to join the bandwagon as network penetration increases.

Advocates of data localisation have called data akin to ‘oil’ that is currently being given away for free. Data is the cornerstone of a lot of processes like predictive, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) among others.

While restricting the flow of data across orders sounds like it may hamper Big Data, the bigger issue is that without servers in India, the Indian government is left with little recourse when it comes to addressing data breaches and privacy violations that happen on global servers. The restriction then trickles down to the consumer.
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See also:
Here’s what global tech CEOs have to say about India's data protection laws

Data localisation won't help 'local' firms or improve privacy — but it could cost India $43 billion

Indian companies know how to sell data but not how to protect it

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