Data anonymization project missing from website one week after release

Two draft documents listing guidelines on data anonymization and mobile security were missing from a government website on Tuesday, a week after being put out for public consultation.

Anonymization is a technique that removes or alters personally identifiable information, resulting in data that cannot be associated with any individual. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) did not specify why the document titled “Guidelines for Anonymization of Data (AoD) and Mobile Security Guidelines (MSG)” was removed from the official standards portal. of e-governance after being published there. August 30. Details shared with the documents had indicated that public comments on them would be accepted until September 21.

The document included guidelines for all stakeholders involved in the processing of personal data and its subtypes through e-governance projects. It aimed to establish recommended practices for handling data collected by e-governance portals such as Cowin Vaccination, Aarogya Setu, National Health Mission, etc. A second mobile security guidelines document included measures to help protect privacy, sensitive data and security. of operations.

Civil society organizations and advocacy groups said the deletion of the documents showed the lack of clarity and accountability in the consultation process.

“This is the third time a public consultation process has been halted without notice or acknowledgment this year,” said Prateek Waghre, policy director at the Internet Freedom Foundation.

India’s Draft Data Accessibility and Usage Policy, 2022 has been updated without any notification, and similarly the Draft IT Rules Amendment, 2021 has been withdrawn during public consultations. “The wider concern is that this has become sort of a trend. It affects how people perceive the public consultation process,” he said.

Advocacy groups said they were also surprised that the documents were posted on a new website, instead of MeitY’s official website.

“It was hard enough to determine that this document was open for public comment in the first place. No press release accompanied these documents. The draft was not made available on the MeitY website. It was hard to find the project that was supposed to be open for public scrutiny,” Waghre said.

A spokesman for a global trade organization, who does not wish to be named, said: ‘We predicted this would happen after seeing the way the documents were introduced. It is concerning that this has become the model in public consultation processes now. »

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