Regulations of the geospatial data need to be employed in a manner that is conducive to the private sector whilst keeping the defence sector in mind.
If India were to liberalise access to geospatial data to internationally headquartered mapping agencies (as there is a large gap in mapping agencies and geospatial technology and device manufacturing in India as compared to global players), this would open India up to vulnerabilities not only individual privacy but also homeland and national security. This would not only be limited to possible historical data misuse by foreign intelligence agencies, but also include possible satellite surveillance of weaponry or cargo movement, maritime mapping, and even movement of borders. Geospatial technology currently has the advantage of being limited to niche uses in India. With the current system of preserving mapped data to security organisations and hosting this data on Indian servers. The argument to liberalise data may not hold the same as when argued for other regulations like the Data Protection Bill. While the Data Protection Bill has rephrased from its older rendition to aim for data localisation for sovereignty and security, the same is not mirrored in the current geospatial guidelines Geospatial data may require further protections as it can map coastal and land borders, satellite usage, railway movement, etc. Currently, this objective for securing real-time mapping, is the reason street view is not permitted via GPS (Google maps) in India. Only recently has India permitted a GPS-aided Indian satellite constellation (GAGAN) to track real-time railway movement, and this too is reserved for passenger trains, and is to be monitored by the Center for Railway Information Systems (CRIS). As the NGP remains vague on the granularity of the data that can be shared, it is currently under the pretext of a case-by-case use (to be considered with other parallels, like start-ups, PPPs, etc). The importance of the data is also to be looked over by the members of the Geospatial Data Promotion and Development Committee (GDPDC) that is to be established under this policy and host a member from the Defence sector. This ambiguity in case preferences is a point of concern that recalls the need for a defence-specific vertical in geospatial data sharing and geospatial technology use.
If India were to liberalise access to geospatial data to internationally headquartered mapping agencies, this would open India up to vulnerabilities not only individual privacy but also homeland and national security.
Defence GIS has been substantiated to be kept separate from civil data. In this segment, it was highlighted that the requirements of the defence, even aside from suscept to attacks, may include also obviating security concerns and issues. The requirement of geospatial data for the defence and thus its regulation must also concern round-the-clock surveillance, terrain analysis and use of higher resolutions and advanced sensors and 3D visualisations as compared to the requirements of civil agencies. In India, specifically in the defence, the Indian Army’s CIDSS (Command Information Decision Support System) and the IAF’s Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) are two geospatial systems in various stages of implementation. India in the New Space Policy has been said to help the Indian space sector move beyond Antrix and become akin to SpaceX, this will help privatise the space sector in India in terms of launches and manufacturing, but this is yet to be seen in practice. Incorporating private sector actors in the space industry is also an area that should be regulated in the NGP, to ensure the New Space Policy is in alignment with strategic use. Regulation for the geospatial sector must consider the defence sector separately. Blanket regulations for defence data and civil data may create a conducive growing environment for the private sector but will be harmful to the defence. Instead, the document needs to encourage the creation of indigenous organisations for all parts of the geospatial supply chain that will ensure these organisations are not bound by generalised data policies meant to govern civil data or international regulations, for data storage, sharing and cannot have the information used by intelligence alliances outside of the Indian defence ecosystem.
The document needs to encourage the creation of indigenous organisations for all parts of the geospatial supply chain that will ensure these organisations are not bound by generalised data policies meant to govern civil data or international regulations, for data storage, sharing and cannot have the information used by intelligence alliances outside of the Indian defence ecosystem.
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Shravishtha Ajaykumar is Associate Fellow at the Centre for Security, Strategy and Technology. Her fields of research include geospatial technology, data privacy, cybersecurity, and strategic ...Read More +