Justice Srikrishna red flags Reliance Jio-Facebook deal on data privacy, lack of regulator


New Delhi, May 12: Chief architect of India’s data privacy law Justice BN Srikrishna has raised a red flag over the lack of a data regulator to oversee privacy concerns emanating from the Reliance Jio-Facebook deal. 

Justice Srikrishna said such a data deal happened “precisely because there is no law”, Business Today reported. Raising concerns over the long-term strategy of the deal, the jurist and retired judge said, “It is a strategic investment. A strategic investment by definition means it is an investment intended to further the business interest of the investee as well as the investor”.

The concern being raised around privacy also emanates from the current policy stand point of the company. Though on Jio’s website the privacy policy states “We do not sell or rent personal information to any third party entities”, it also states certain exceptions. 

The policy says it limits the disclosure of personal information such as name, phone number, address, photographs and proof of identity documents such as PAN Card, Passport etc., in certain circumstances which includes scenario such as a mergers or acquisitions that affects the company and also to its partners. 

According to the policy, exceptions to sharing with ‘Partners’ include vendors, consultants, contractors and companies or affiliates who provide a host of services including contact information verification, payment processing, customer service, website hosting, data analysis, infrastructure provision, IT services, and other similar services.

The Jio-Facebook deal could place Facebook in the category of ‘Partner’. A questionnaire to Reliance Jio by Business Today is yet to elicit a response.

Justice Srikrishna also pointed out that the Jio-FB deal raises two important issues — one around competition law, the other around data. Pointing out that existence of Competition Law in India ensures that a regulator is in place who, upon a compliant being made will investigate facts, will look into various aspects of the deal following due process of law and finally come out with a conclusion. However, with regard to data, Justice Srikrishna said, “Without the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Act coming into force, where is the regulator?”

“Data regulation becomes a big issue there, because of absence of regulator. And the regulator is not there because there is no law in place,” he said while speaking at a webinar hosted by Daksha fellowship on Data Governance and Democratic Ethos.

In April this year, Facebook made an equity investment of approximately $5.7 billion in Jio Platforms for a 9.99 percent stake with an early focus on leveraging the latter’s e-commerce platform JioMart.


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