Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in his blog post on March 7 spoke about company’s way forward, privacy and data storage among others.
Zuckerberg said, “People want to know their data is stored securely in places they trust. Looking at the future of the internet and privacy, I believe one of the most important decisions we’ll make is where we’ll build data centers and store people’s sensitive data.”
He further added, “As we build our infrastructure around the world, we’ve chosen not to build data centers in countries that have a track record of violating human rights like privacy or freedom of expression. If we build data centers and store sensitive data in these countries, rather than just caching non-sensitive data, it could make it easier for those governments to take people’s information.”
At a time when countries across the world, including India, are looking at implementing privacy and data protection laws, Zuckerberg’s message is clear. You can block us if you want. “That’s a trade-off we’re willing to make,” he says. But we are not going to build local data centres just because the government says so.
Though he did not imply India specifically, it might as well be the answer to the government’s continuous questioning and demands to setup data centres here. From demanding that the US tech giant be put in place with appropriate regulatory mechanisms, to calling for increased transparency while appointing executives in India, the ministry has been coming down on the company pretty strongly.
This face-off between Facebook and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has been happening going on for some time, starting with the circulation of fake news through its messaging platform Whatsapp, which have resulted in violence, and even death. The parliamentary committee on information technology recently asked Facebook about the steps it has taken to curb fake news ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, which according to reports, Facebook’s executives were unable to answer.
Not too long ago, the Reserve Bank of India mandated that payment solutions providers should store the payment details in India, and banned the ones that failed to do so. Whatsapp payments, after much lobbying, complied and said that it has created an infrastructure to store the data of Indians in India.
The government has been coming up policies on data protection and a privacy, which after clearing Cabinet approval, would likely work against these US companies.
The policy that takes key learnings from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, when implemented would require all companies to store sensitive data in India. This means that players like Facebook and Google to open data centre here for data storage. Though these players continue to lobby against the data localisaiton rule, many of them have stated that they would comply with local government policies.
India is one of the biggest markets and they cannot afford to lose them. Facebook has 300 million users in India, its biggest market. It has only 210 million users in the US, according to Statista.
Given the sheer volume of users, it makes one wonder about the Facebook founder’s recent opinion about data privacy. Is it a challenge to the government that is hell-bent on making them store their data?.