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India may require online shops to hand over site code

It also wants to look for 'explainable' AI.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
July 5, 2020
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CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos (R) gestures as he addresses the Amazon's annual Smbhav event in New Delhi on January 15, 2020. - Bezos, whose worth has been estimated at more than $110 billion, is officially in India for a meeting of business leaders in New Delhi. (Photo by Sajjad  HUSSAIN / AFP) (Photo by SAJJAD  HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images)
SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images

India’s plan to tightly regulate online shopping could give it a peek at how many internet giants work. Bloomberg says it obtained a draft e-commerce policy that would mandate access to sites’ source codes and algorithms. This would help prevent “digitally induced biases,” according to the draft. It would also help determine if companies have “explainable” AI. In other words, sites would have to make some of their trade secrets available without a court battle.

The proposed policy would also ask companies to turn over stored data within 72 hours of a request. Shops would have to identify a product’s country of origin and how much India played a role. There would be protections for users — companies would have to provide contact details for sellers, including for complaints.

The draft policy will be open to comment online before it’s formalized, Bloomberg said.

The measure if implemented could have even more of an effect on sites like Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart than before. While it could improve transparency in shopping and prevent abuse, it would also ask companies to provide key parts of their strategy and risk exposing it to leaks. Not that these firms would have much of a choice — India represents a massive customer base, and ignoring it could prove costly.

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