US internet firms such as Google and social network Facebook dominate the country’s internet market. Both firms are also investing heavily in building rural India, making their platform the first choice of users to get the network effect — the more users these firms get, the better their platform network gets. These firms offer free services in exchange for data that help them target users with advertisements.
“A big part of public policy all over the world will be how we enforce a policy regime where data are portable, shared and yours. We do not have anything like that in India. So, we can think of a fresh policy that would be leapfrogging,” said Nilekani, the architect of Aadhaar, the country’s unique identity programme. “I am deeply concerned that data are going to create a new set of monopolists; it is going to create a whole new model of colonisation.”
Nilekani’s comments comes ahead of a crucial hearing by a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, which will answer concerns on whether privacy in India is a fundamental human right and part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The court will hear a series of petitions that have argued that the Aadhaar programme, which mandates individuals share biometric details, is a violation of the citizen’s right to privacy.