ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Panoptic at Work

The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill does not reclaim the commons.

The draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill (GIRB) 2016 released for public comment by the Ministry of Home Affairs invokes the evergreen argument of national security to justify the construction of a comprehensive regulatory framework. Arriving close on the heels of the publication of similar policy documents concerning the governance of data and the internet such as the draft National Encryption Policy and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-Top (OTT) Services, the GIRB appears to be another step in a multipronged attempt by the central government to achieve overarching regulatory and surveillance authority over data flows in Indian cyberspace. Both documents were withdrawn or subsequently overruled by their issuing departments following public response, and it remains to be seen whether the GIRB will meet a similar fate.

With the recent launch of the seventh and final satellite IRNSS-1G for the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, the country has gained the capacity to generate its own geospatial data, and this bill appears to be aimed at ensuring that all geospatial data obtained from other sources be subject to the same level of control that the government could presumably exert over its own data. However, the draft appears to be beset by a lack of understanding of the technological basis of geolocation services and the markets in which the geospatial data generated by them are used.

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