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Congress accuses TRS Govt of violating privacy of citizens

News Agencies | Updated on: 7 July 2019, 8:35 IST

The Congress party on Saturday demanded that the Telangana government release a white paper on 'Samagra Vedika', an initiative which integrated personal data of citizens, from 25 departments.

Addressing a press conference at Gandhi Bhavan on Saturday, All India Congress Committee (AICC) Spokesperson Sravan Dasoju referred to a speech delivered by Jayesh Ranjan, the Principal Secretary of Information and Communications, in a national conference held by a prominent organisation wherein he claimed that he could give complete information of any person if he got his or her name.

"Jayesh Ranjan claimed that he could see anyone's digital footprints within seconds. This is nothing but a confession that the privacy of citizens of Telangana has been encroached upon. People have a right to know how and why you captured their data? What are the data points and have people given their consent for accumulation and later integration of their personal information?" he asked.

Sravan said that the Telangana Police had registered a case against IT Grid company for allegedly securing personal data of citizens of Andhra Pradesh.

The case was linked to TDP during the last general elections. He asked whether a similar case would be booked against the Telangana Government for accumulating and integration of people's data without their consent.

"This is nothing but blackmailing people by saying that we have your complete information. Invasion of privacy is a violation of constitutional right and also the breach of trust. Citizens have furnished their personal details to different departments for various transactions. But the officials not only integrated the personal details, but also made them available to other departments without taking people's consent," he said.

The Congress leader said that the TRS government has often been accused of spying on people through various means including phone tapping. There is no information or clarity on the data security and no guarantee that the accumulated information would not be shared with private parties.

He pointed out that the Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) seeking their response on the validity of the Aadhaar ordinance allowing voluntary use of the document as identity proof for opening bank accounts.

He said that the Supreme Court, in the past, has issued several guidelines on the protection of privacy. Therefore, he said that the Telangana Government must clear its stand on 'Samagra Vedika' and clarify whether it was done with the consent of individuals whose data was integrated and being shared by various departments.

Sravan said that the 'Samagra Vedika' initiative found a mention in the Economic Survey 2019 released by the Centre a day before the presentation of Union Budget.

It says that the initiative links around 25 existing government datasets using a common identifier - the name and address of an individual. Seven categories of information about each individual were linked in this aggregation exercise - crimes, assets, utilities, subsidies, education, taxes and identity information. Each individual was then further linked to relatives such as spouse, siblings, parents and other known associates.

"State Government must release a White Paper explaining the data points, format, algorithms and procedures used to procure and integrate the data and whether or not it was gathered with people's consent," he demanded while adding that algorithms could be manipulated and the personal information of citizens might land in private hands. He said details of agencies involved in the process of accumulation, integration and digitisation of data should be made public.

Further, he said the government must explain the security measures that it has taken and the accountability fixed on the nodal agency and its officials. "What is the guarantee that the available data will not be used for political purpose by the ruling party and commercial purposes by private individuals if they are granted access?" he asked.

He said that the Congress party would approach Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy seeking a probe into the matter as the issue comes under Cyber Security.


First published: 7 July 2019, 8:35 IST