The dangers in the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill


The government is set to introduce the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill in Parliament.

Rechecking the errors

  • The Data Protection Bill of 2022 includes a provision to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act, which has empowered millions of Indian citizens since its enactment in 2005.
  • To effectively hold their governments accountable in a democracy, people need access to information, including various categories of personal data.
  • For example, the Supreme Court of India has held that citizens have a right to know the names of wilful defaulters and details of the Non Performing Assets (NPAs) of public sector banks.
  • Democracies routinely ensure public disclosure of voters’ lists with names, addresses and other personal data to enable public scrutiny and prevent electoral fraud.
  • Experience of the use of the RTI Act in India has shown that if people, especially the poor and marginalised, are to have any hope of obtaining the benefits of government schemes and welfare programmes, they must have access to relevant, granular information.
  • For instance, the Public Distribution System (PDS) Control Order recognises the need for putting out the details of ration card holders and records of ration shops in the public domain to enable public scrutiny and social audits of the PDS.

Threat to transparency, accountability

  • The RTI Act includes a provision to harmonise peoples’ right to information with their right to privacy through an exemption clause under Section 8(1)(j).
  • The DPDP Bill 2022, however, proposes amendments to Section 8(1)(j) to expand its purview and exempt all personal information from disclosure.
  • This threatens the very foundations of the transparency and accountability regime in the country.
  • The DPDP Bill, 2022, unfortunately, empowers the executive to draft rules and notifications on a vast range of issues.
  • For instance, the central government can exempt any government or even private sector entity from the application of provisions of the law by merely issuing a notification.
  • This would potentially allow the government to arbitrarily exempt its cronies and government bodies such as the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), resulting in immense violations of citizens’ privacy.

No autonomy

  • Further, to meet its objective of protecting personal data, it is critical that the oversight body set up under the legislation be adequately independent to act on violations of the law by government entities.
  • The draft Bill does not even make a pretence of ensuring autonomy of the Data Protection Board — the institution responsible for enforcement of provisions of the law.
  • The central government is empowered to determine the strength and composition of the board, as well as the process of selection and removal of its chairperson and other members.
  • The chief executive responsible for managing the board is to be appointed by the government, giving it direct control over the institution.
  • The creation of a totally government-controlled Data Protection Board, empowered to impose fines upto ₹500 crore, is bound to raise serious apprehensions of it becoming another caged parrot — open to misuse by the executive to target the political opposition and those critical of its policies.


These concerns need to be urgently addressed before the DPDP Bill is enacted. Unfortunately, given the manner in which Bills are being passed in the Parliament, without any debate or discussion, the citizens of the country might end up with a law that empowers the central government while taking away peoples’ democratic right to seek information and use it to hold the powerful to account.

Editorial 2 : The holocene climate anomalies


Some headlines proclaimed recently that a particular day in July was the warmest in more than a 100,000 years. It is not scientifically possible to make such a claim.

Temperature estimates

  • Temperature estimates from before thermometers were invented are derived from “palaeo proxies”.
  • These are biological and chemical signatures of the temperature somewhere having been warmer or colder than a specific baseline temperature.
  • Such a baseline is typically from the modern times, when thermometer records have existed.
  • These measures are called “proxies” because they do not directly measure temperatures. Instead, they are simply the responses of physical, biological, and chemical processes to temperatures at that time having been warmer or colder than the baseline value.
  • Another thing we need to make claims about temperatures of a time in the past are some isotopes that undergo a steady rate of radioactive decay.
  • Knowing this rate, and the expected quantity of the isotope X years ago, scientists can estimate how long it took to diminish to its present quantity.
  • Based on the length of time one needs to go back to, the isotopes could be of carbon or lead, based on their half-lives (5,000 to more than 10 million years).

Longer and shorter timescales

  • A major assumption required to make the “paleo proxy” technique workable is that the processes that produced the proxies have operated similarly back then as they do today.
  • More specifically, and crucially, for a period of hundreds of thousands of years, proxies – which are typically buried in the ocean and lake sediments – can only record temperature anomalies, i.e. deviations from the baseline, on time scales of centuries, if not thousands of years.
  • They are mixed by the ocean water above and the microbes within, smoothing out the information they contain over such long timescales.
  • From this object, it is almost impossible to estimate even decadal or annual changes in long-term temperature.
  • Scientists derive estimates of temperature anomalies over shorter time scales from tree rings, corals, and the shells of marine and terrestrial organisms.

The Holocene epoch

  • The most relevant bit of knowledge experts might wish to piece together today from historical temperature-related anomalies is whether any warming during the Holocene epoch can tell us something about the response of modern humans to climate change.
  • There is some evidence as to the causes of demise of various civilisations in this epoch – and a climate-related event was not always the sole or even the proximal cause.
  • At the same time, modern humans’ (bipedal) ancestors also survived larger climatic changes over the evolutionary timescales of hundreds of thousands of years.
  • The earth’s climate has witnessed glacials, or ice ages, and deglacials for at least a million years. The Holocene itself has been a deglacial period, with a relatively small volume of glaciers compared to a proper ice age.

Endangering climate action

  • It is scientifically impossible to estimate daily temperatures even for a particular day from last year – unless we have a thermometer measurement.
  • To wish to elicit collective and individual climate action while sacrificing scientific rigour and accuracy is a dangerous approach.
  • It simply amounts to an ‘ the end justifies the means’ approach that is likely to lead to a loss of credibility for the climate community.


Modern societies have placed a considerable amount of trust in their scientists. Squandering this trust could render irreversible damage to the efforts that scientists and government officials have been making to improve global participation in climate negotiations, the willingness of governments to adhere to their climate commitments, and the grass roots initiatives that push governments and businesses into action, and to support communities dealing with the consequences of climate change.


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