India’s telecom, IT and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday appealed to search giant Google to work with India on digital security. The minister’s appeal comes at a time of heightened digital security and privacy concerns in India following a wave of high-profile hacks.
“I want Google to be involved in a more meaningful way. The more digital we go, the more challenges there will be in terms of cybersecurity,” the minister said at an event hosted by Google in New Delhi in the presence of CEO Sundar Pichai. “I would appeal to Google to work more on digital security.”
“I want Google to be involved in a more meaningful way. The more digital we go, the more challenges there will be in terms of cybersecurity”
— Ravi Shankar Prasad, IT minister, India
Prasad pointed out that the Indian government, on its part, has been taking adequate measures to strengthen the country’s digital security, but made it clear that its efforts needed the support of the search giant.
“Google is as much Indian as American. The sheer number of people in India who have accepted you means you have an obligation for India as much as (the) US,” Prasad said at the event where Pichai announced a digital skilling program aimed at the country’s over 50 million small and medium businesses. Google does not disclose how many people use its services. But with revenues of nearly Rs 6,000 crore and offices across the country, it is among the largest consumer internet companies operating in the country.
Government officials tasked with law enforcement have in the past expressed concerns that multinational tech companies are not forthcoming with user data that could help investigations
Government officials tasked with law enforcement have in the past expressed concerns that multinational tech companies are not forthcoming with user data that could help investigations. At a recent closed door event, a top bureaucrat from the Prime Minister’s office said that the process was often tedious and “too late”. “If they have to operate in India, they must operate under Indian laws, not American laws,” he said.
Data corroborates the bureaucrat’s and Prasad’s concerns. In the January-June 2016 period, Google received 3,452 requests from India to share user data. The company complied in 55% of the cases — a rate that is lower compared to other countries. India figures in the top five countries by number of requests for data after the US, Germany and France.
Between July to December 2015, the last publicly available data for this, Google also received 259 requests from the government and through court orders to remove content for reasons ranging from defamation to nudity and religious offence. It complied with 38% of court orders and only 10% of government requests.