Daily Current Affairs – 10th May, 2016DEVENDRA VISHWAKARMA
Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016
- Aimed at regulating the acquisition and use of geospatial information pertaining to India
- Makes it illegal to acquire and even maintain previously acquired Indian geospatial data without applying for and receiving a licence from an authority that is to be created for this purpose
- Security Vetting Authority
- Conduct “sensitivity checks” on the geospatial information being used
- “Screen” the “credentials” of both end users and end applications
Geospatial information— According to the draft it means:
- Geospatial imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles
- Graphical or digital data depicting natural or man-made physical features, phenomenon or boundaries of the earth
- Any information related thereto including surveys, charts, maps, terrestrial photos referenced to a co-ordinate system and having attributes
Violation of the law (if it becomes a law):
- Illegal acquisition of geospatial information of India – Fine ranging from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 100 crore and/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years.
- Illegal dissemination, publication or distribution of geospatial information of India – Whoever disseminates, publishes or distributesany geospatial information of India in contravention of section 4, shall be punished with a fine ranging from Rs. 10 lakhs to Rs. 100 crore and/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years.
- Use of geospatial information of India outside India – Fine ranging from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 100 croreand/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years
Geospatial information—covers information that we think of as relatively stable but also talks about “graphical or digital data depicting… man-made physical features”. Geospatial information, especially when so widely defined, keeps changing and therefore, there occurs a natural question in case of the changes in infrastructure being made– what happens when the data change?
Example: Case of a restaurant discovery app:
Will it have to apply for a new licence every time a new restaurant opens (or closes) in Hauz Khas Village?
- Since the draft bill proposes that only data that bear the watermark of the vetting authority be used for display, it will have to.
- Changing the name of a restaurant in such data would amount to tampering with watermarked data.
- Not propagating updates till security clearance is released may affect the business model of businesses premised on providing up-to-date information.
- The bill promises a three-month turnaround on all clearances which might not be quick enough, even if it was feasible, which leads us to the next question.
Do we have the bandwidth to handle all applications for this usage inside and outside India?
- High usage of Indian geospatial data both outside and inside India— needs hundreds of experts who can “vet” terabytes of data from each applicant
- This might lead to stifling of the innovation ecosystems depending upon geospatial data
Does every single end user of such data also need a licence?
- Large organisations like Google, which are acquiring and making geospatial data available through their application programming interfaces (APIs), are in some sense at the lowest level of an application stack which could potentially have several layers (and probably already has)
Example: App A mashes up data from services B, C and D which in turn have bought their data from E, F and G and, guess what, F and G have some kind of data-sharing agreement. How will A get its data acquisition vetted?
- What is happening here is creation of new efficiencies or provision of leverage to the existing ones
- Need to switch to a simple registration-based system that doesn’t make the acquisition of a licence a precondition to using data
- However, scrutinising the credentials of every end user is not possible and therefore, a clear distinction must be made between the producers and consumers of geospatial data
- Need to access the impact on Digital India Initiative by the government
- The bill mentions about the exclusion of government departments but still does not give any clear direction of which all departments will be exempted—need to clarify
- Other steps:
- Widen the definition of ‘consumers’
- All publishers of geospatial data should register with the security-vetting authority and provide an online window through which the authority can conduct an audit of their data— for the vetting authority to go through and raise an objection if there exists something objectionable
- Allow the data to be used by end users and be updated by the publisher as required
Connecting the Dots:
- Discuss the role and responsibilities of the Security Vetting Authority proposed by the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016.
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