By Erica Diya Basu
Doctoral Researcher Erica Diya Basu was delighted to present “Protecting Children’s Data in the Digital Era: The India Story” at the University of Thai Chamber of Commerce-Thailand Ministry of Data Economy & Society Workshop on “Developing ASEAN Guidelines and Promoting Awareness on Child and Youth Online Risk” in Bangkok, Thailand from August 23-24, 2018. The Workshop was the first in a series of planned workshop-seminars to address digital issues and challenges confronting societies of the ASEAN region.
Erica's presentation focused on digital privacy and data protection as they relate to children’s data in India, at a time when rapid advancement of digital technologies and increased access to the Internet via smartphones have outpaced the levels of digital literacy to ensure a safe digital space for children, to take full advantage of the benefits that the Internet also offers. These issues have been further complicated with the growing appetite of the public and private sectors to collect data in general in the absence of a national data protection bill.
The first draft of India’s Personal Data Protection Bill was published by the government on July 28, 2018 and is now open for public comment until September 10, 2018. Chapter V of the proposed Data Protection Bill specifically deals with children’s data collection and protection, and is informed by existing legal safeguards in the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and relevant section of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (EU-GDPR), among others. While there are no reliable data sets to analyze patterns and trends of children’s online risk in India, media reports and empirical cases reported by NGOs working on children’s rights point to a rise in incidents of cyberbullying, online human trafficking, online child abuse, and grooming activities for child sexual exploitation.
The recommendations outlined in a 2016 UNICEF assessment report on Child Online Protection in India - to increase digital literacy levels through multi-stakeholder, collborative interventions, and the need for reliable data to inform rigorous, evidence-based research - have also been reaffirmed by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
The two-day workshop presented regional case studies and focused on developing an ASEAN framework to combat the challenges of children’s online risk. It also recommended the formation of an ASEAN Working Group of Child eSafety for sharing best practices; building more robust mechanisms for reporting online abuse; creating a regional student exchange program for better use of ICT; engaging the whole community through outreach activities and advocacy campaigns; and collaborating with tech companies and ISPs to provide a safer online space for children.
India is a full dialogue partner of ASEAN - the Association of South East Asian Nations - since 1995 because of their mutual interests across diverse sectors including regional connectivity, trade, investments, and security, which have become increasingly entangled in the digital era. Other participants included representatives of government digital literacy missions, academicians, scholars, online gaming companies, child rights NGOs, and celebrity ambassadors from Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines.