In a move being touted as ‘support’ for the automobile sector, Government of India has brought out a new policy where willing organizations and individuals can legally buy bulk vehicle registration data from the government after March 2019. Currently, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways collects this data to issue registration certificates and licenses to people. Eyeing the vast monetary potential of this huge data that increases by several hundred thousand entries per month, the government is now all set to reap the benefits of this massive information stockpile. The new policy has been termed “Bulk Data Sharing” by the government and will come into effect in the new fiscal year.
A decision taken without any public consultation, the new move will enable the buyers to access a 28 point data of all the registration certificates and driving licenses currently present in the country. Apart from the name of the vehicle’s owner data like registration number, finance details, insurance policy details etc. will be shared with the people in exchange of an annual fee.
As to who can access the data, the government has stated that all companies registered with at least 50% Indian resident or Indian company ownership, private individuals, and educational institutions are eligible to buy this data from the government. Companies and individuals will have to pay an annual sum of Rs. 3 crore to access the data. Whereas the educational institutions can access the data for internal study and research for merely Rs. 5 lakh per annum.
While rolling out the new policy MoRTH said in a press release;
It is recognized that sharing data for other purposes, in a controlled manner, can support the transport and automobile industry. The sharing of data will also help in service improvements and wider benefits to citizens and government. In addition, it will also benefit the country’s economy. The prime focus is on delivering simpler, better and safer services to the citizens. There is a possibility of triangulation. Free access to the vehicle’s basic data is available to all the registered users through mParivahan App or through the web portal of the Ministry. The information available shall be restricted to the basic details regarding statutory compliances and the owner’s name.
The statement talks of triangulation in their statement, which is a major cause of concern among many data privacy watchdogs and common public alike. Although the Bulk Data Sharing policy will not share the names of vehicle owners with buyers of data, the simple use of government’s own free-for-all services such as the Vahan app combined with this data can exactly pin-point the identity of all entries in the data catalog. A major move like this also risks the security of precious data of the Indian public, previous attempts by government for data sharing have not left a good taste in public’s mouth, Aadhaar is one such example.
Although the policy states that the data is non-transferable and shall be stored on Indian servers only, organizations with data access can sell analytics reports, forecasting, any other reports based on this data. This could very possible lead to misuse of data with the public facing the bitter end of the deal in form of robocalls and extremely targeted ads.
Talking of the misuse of data, the policy states that the government will be free to take any action on violators under the IT Act and other applicable laws besides debarring the agency from access to this data for a period of three years.