Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam: Paper - III (General Studies – II) - 03 August 2018

Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam

UPSC Syllabus:

  • Paper-III: General Studies -II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

Q. Examine the potential risks which the breach of users’ data and its misuse poses to the country and its people. Suggest various possible reforms that should be undertaken to promote data protection in India. (250 words)

Model Answer:


  • Why in news?
  • Potential risks
  • Various possible reforms
  • Conclusion

Why in news?

  • A draft bill, titled The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018, has recently been submitted by Shri B.N. Srikrishna committee.
  • The UK-based firm Cambridge Analytica has allegedly misused user data on Facebook.
  • There were cases in news lately related to Aadhaar data breach.

Potential risks

The convergence of Big Data analytics, artificial intelligence and social media, has further increased data breach and its misuse.

  • This proliferation of digital networking has provided an incredible platform for people to communicate, but its flip side is that individual users are increasingly viewed as legitimate targets for mining personal and metadata.
  • Breach of personal data is an encroachment over individual privacy undermining the fundamental right to life guaranteed under article 21 of Indian constitution.
  • Use of mined data for relatively innocuous purposes such as targeted cross-platform advertising is fine, but when analysed in bulk, such data can provide an intimate psychological profile including ideological preferences that together help campaign managers target communications and forecast voter behaviour.
  • Certain risks to the very health of democracy stem from the dominance of social media platforms, which not only deliver personalized content to users, but in many cases privilege content based on engagement rather than quality. This limits users’ access to information, which in turn leads to political polarisation and the spread of fake news. And fake news can have a considerable impact on electoral politics For example – Last U.S. Presidential elections are alleged to be influenced by Russia.
  • It may endanger national security.

Various possible reforms

  • Simplification of terms of service – the service agreement to which a new user (of an app or social media site) has to agree, should be simple and human-readable so that users could understand what they are signing up for.
  • Strengthening of data protection laws – Progress should be made on a White Paper prepared by Justice B.N. Srikrishna committee, on a data protection framework for India. Either the existing Information Technology Act, 2000 should be strengthened or a new but strong act containing stringent provisions against data breach should be made.
  • There should be an effective regulator to regulate the service provider firms like facebook regarding the extent of user data that can be captured and its usage. This would increase the accountability of such third party firms.
  • Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT- In), a national agency for cyber security incident response, should issue early warnings for any data threat.
  • Training for Skill & Competence development should be imparted to people responsible for security of data
  • There should be collaboration among various National and International bodies to deal with any data threat or incident.
  • Social media platforms should be partnered in the quest for protecting user data.
  • By launching rewarding programs to encourage computer science researchers to find flaws in popular software before, say, cyber criminals can find a use for them. 
  • By spreading digital literacy, importance of their personal data and its potential to be misused, among the masses.


With continued advancement in technologies, risk of data theft and misuse would be higher. Digital India roll-out, push on digital payments and rising e-commerce penetration mandates a stronger data protection regime to foster trust in the data ecosystem.

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