Privacy law: Under-18s to be defined as minors in gaming


 The government may define individuals below 18 years as underage for the online gaming sector for processing of personal data, while the definition of underage might be revised in the case of edtech and healthcare sectors under the digital personal data protection law, a senior official aware of the matter said.

“For healthcare and education, the age limits can be reduced to below 18, which will not pose an issue. But for gaming, it may be kept at 18,” the official said on condition of anonymity. The official, however, noted that consultations with the industry on framing of the rules will take place, and a timeframe for implementing the rules will be notified to ensure compliance.

Section 9 (5) of the the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill, under ‘processing of personal data of children’, stated that specific companies and sectors could be allowed a revised age limit for what defines an underage user — if “processing of personal data of children is done in a manner that is verifiably safe”.

So far, India did not have specific legislation laying down guidelines on how companies in the country could collect and process the personal data of underage users, with the only provision being Section 43A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, dealing with negligence of overall personal data. Section 9 of the DPDP Bill addresses this, preventing the collection and processing of personal data of underage users—apart from a case-wise exemption offered under Section 9(5).

Industry stakeholders and experts said such a move may not significantly alter the operations and revenue of real-money gaming firms—although e-sports firms may face a bigger impact due to such a decision.

“Regulating user age in online gaming will not really have an impact on the real-money gaming sector since such platforms already ensure that users are above 18 through KYC processes. There could be some impact in terms of user data collection for e-sports and casual gaming companies that have a larger volume of teenage users, but how this will pan out will depend on how such gaming categories are segregated under law,” said Sudipta Bhattacharjee, partner at Delhi-based law firm Khaitan & Co.

Stakeholders of the e-sports industry also underlined the importance of segregating the overall online gaming industry between real-money games and e-sports. A senior executive at a domestic gaming firm, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there could be “some impact on a gaming company to a limited extent if restrictions are imposed on (collection of data) under-18 users”.

“The impact on revenue for gaming companies will be limited since most revenue comes from overseas users or users aged above 18. Even ad revenue comes from the overall user base and is not solely dependent on targeted ads,” the executive added.

To ensure this segregation, on 26 July, over 45 e-sports and gaming firms, including Nodding Heads, Hitwicket and Supergaming, wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office, clarifying segregation between real-money gaming and e-sports in relation to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council’s new tax recommendation. The letter sought to differentiate the two subdivisions of the gaming industry, which industry stakeholders said can make a difference in data collection regulations as well.

Others said implementing underage exemptions could be more nuanced, instead of the government imposing a blanket norm for all firms in an industry.

Jay Sayta, a technology and gaming lawyer, said: “Provisions under Section 9(5) of the DPDP Bill will be applicable across the industry, but it is unlikely that there will be a blanket rule that covers an entire industry. Certain startups may be afforded exemptions under certain cases, but all of that remains to be clarified.”

Sayta added, citing Section 40 of the Bill, that “there will be future rules that define how certain sections will be regulated in terms of personal data.” “How underage user data collection will work for sectors with teenage users will depend on these future rules.”


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