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Monday, Sep 14, 2020 12:45 [IST]

Last Update: Monday, Sep 14, 2020 07:08 [IST]

Knee-jerk reactions

Many have purported that "data is the new oil of the digital economy" when refined it can become a useful decision-making tool – information. However, unlike oil, when data has a human element to its creation, it requires protection.
On September 8, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the "Global Initiative on Data Security" at a Beijing seminar on global digital governance titled "Seizing Digital Opportunities for Cooperation and Development." Wang emphasized the global nature of the threat to data security and the importance of cross-border data flows in an open, fair and impartial business environment. The initiative would urge countries to oppose "mass surveillance against other states" and call on tech companies not to install "back doors in their products and services to illegally obtain users' data, control or manipulate users’ systems and devices".
In the current geopolitical climate, the initiative shows that China is taking the high road and responding by reemphasizing its commitment to multilateralism, cyber sovereignty, data security, attempting to find constructive solutions and enhancing mutual trust and cooperation.
However, it is widely felt that this initiative of China seems designed to fight off concerns over Beijing’s prying eyes, rather than actually safeguarding anyone’s privacy. It has been on the defensive globally. The US has had Chinese firms such as Huawei and apps like TikTok under the scanner, on suspicions of sneaking data to Beijing, while India banned several apps that could leak data to a hostile neighbour. Wang Yi acknowledged the threat posed by cyber security breaches, but offered no credible evidence that anything was being done to shield data.
China’s avowals sound hollow. Its aim seems to be to save overseas markets that Chinese companies could soon lose. Specifically, it might be trying to relieve pressure imposed by the US on TikTok to sell out to local investors. Recently, Beijing made it mandatory for this app’s owner, ByteDance, to get its nod for any such deal. It’s well known that China is under an authoritarian regime that cares little for the privacy of its own citizens, who are digitally watched and tracked like prison inmates. The question is, should we take China’s data security pledges at face value?

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi