Attempt to protect customs data against abuse: Ban on publishing commercial information in the crosshairs of the government | Latest India News

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The Finance Bill proposed to criminalize the illicit publication of transaction-level information provided by commercial entities to the Customs Service, as such data could be misused by competing international entities and hostile countries to the detriment Indian companies, said two officials familiar with the development. .

There must be legal provisions against the publication of the data, which can be exploited by other countries to the detriment of India, they said.

The Finance Bill presented to Parliament on February 1 proposed to insert “Article 135AA” into the customs law to protect import and export data submitted to customs by importers or exporters in their customs declarations. publishing this information, unless otherwise provided by law, as a criminal offence.

The proposed privacy and data privacy provisions have drawn strong reactions from all sides. On the one hand, Congressman Shashi Tharoor, who alleged that the government was restricting the availability of data to the public, on the other, FIEO Managing Director Ajay Sahai, who told the media that “exporters had called for strict measures to prevent the sharing of commercially sensitive information”. they were bought from the customs ICEGATE and sold for a premium,” an official said.

Indian Customs e-Gateway (ICEGATE) is the national India Customs portal under the Central Board of Incise Tax and Customs (CBIC) that provides e-filing services to cargo carriers and other trading partners electronically .

Reacting to Tharoor’s tweet on the matter, CBIC said: “The Honorable Member’s attention is drawn to the clause proposed in subsection. 135 AA(2) under which government agencies, such as the Department of Commerce, will continue to publish data uninterrupted in accordance with current practice.

“The proposed clause will only criminalize the unlawful publication of personalized transaction-level information by private entities, which affects the competitive position of Indian companies in international trade and compromises the confidentiality of their data,” he said. said in a second tweet about it from his manager. handle @cbic_india on Feb 5.

Either way, data release through the Commerce Department will continue unimpeded, the above-mentioned official said. At present, the Director General of Trade Intelligence and Statistics (DGCI&S) provides export and import data through the government website tradestat.commerce.gov.in.

“The data is aggregated and completely anonymized before being published on the net. Data can be extracted to 8 digits, by country, with quantity and value of goods, imported and exported. These aggregated data are useful for associations and researchers but apparently insufficient for companies. They are looking for competitive intelligence and mining information on buyers, sellers and even “contemporary values” of goods to ward off customs valuation challenges. This demand has led to a very lucrative data mining and trading market,” he said.

There are said to be 130 million records available for sale on the darkweb and as recently as December 2021 the Systems Branch filed an FIR with the Delhi Police under the Computers Act 2000 at the series of letters sent to other ministries on improving the security of commercial data. sensitive customs data, he added.

Another official, who did not wish to be named, said the CBIC officer network is a closed loop and is not open to the public via the Internet. However, ICEGATE exchanges data with over 26 partner agencies, including private sector commercial organizations such as ports and airports. For the private sector, data is extremely valuable to offer a multitude of services or for monetization. Their approach to data security is not aligned with that of customs.

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