US chipmaker Qualcomm has opposed any move to make it mandatory for companies to store customers’ personal data locally, saying any such blanket regulation – like the one India is planning – can hit the competitiveness of a company and limit consumers’ choice.
Speaking to ET, Qualcomm president Christiano Amon backed a case-by-case approach to deal with data privacy and security issues. “Certain things can be centralised, certain things can be localised, but you can’t really have a rule that mandates this,” Amon said. “You have to look at it case by case. Because technology moves faster than regulation, I think it is important to take a very pragmatic view.”
The mandate of The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018—which is likely to be presented in Parliament in June—on data localisation is one of the most-watched provisions by foreign technology companies. The Justice BN Srikrishna Committee on data protection, which took almost a year to prepare its report and the draft bill, has recommended that a copy of all personal data should be stored in India, while all information of critical nature can only be kept locally. The committee has left it to the government to define critical personal data.
“A regulation like that instead of helping, prevents a company from becoming competitive and make use of the technology…One possible approach is to make sure that the systems they’re using, the data are secure,” said Amon.
He added the debate on data protection and privacy is very relevant and is taking place across the world in the lead up to 5G and each government will take a call on how to protect data. But they need to keep in mind that data localisation may also limit consumer choice, Amon said.
“What 5G would do with high bandwidth and low latency, it will bring you and the cloud closer together. Users should have the easy ability to move from one ecosystem and mobile to the other, from one app store to the other and carry their content with them,” he said.
“So, I think to enable choice, especially as this is a very dynamic industry and a lot of the innovation is coming, it’s probably as important as a role of governments to also look at the integrity and security of the data,” Amon said.
Qualcomm also doesn’t agree with the model of the net neutrality law which looks at the issue only from the point of view of consumers, a model adopted by India recently which bars slicing and dicing of networks to prioritise any app or content over others and ensures free and equal access to the Web for all.
Amon said that mobile phone companies need to be allowed to slice and prioritise their networks as per use cases and criticality. “When you think about net neutrality and when you take an approach which is only thinking about the consumers, you’re very likely to prevent the full potential of the technology and its impact on industry and enterprise,” he said.
According to the Qualcomm executive, as one moves towards 5G, which offers low latency and reliable communication to machines, different use cases will require different types of data with different types of service guarantees, for which operators need to slice their networks.
“And if the operator community doesn’t have the ability to provide the infrastructure for the use case, two things will happen—the operator won’t invest in 5G and the industry won’t remain competitive and increase productivity on a global scale versus others that do,” said Amon.