Modi app leaks data? More privacy scare after Cambridge Analytica, Aadhaar

Topics Rahul Gandhi

File photo of Congress President Rahul Gandhi speaking during the 84th Plenary Session of Indian National Congress
After the data leak scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, and the many reports of Aadhaar data of Indian being at a risk of compromise, the Narendra Modi app seems to be in the eye of a storm, and a new flashpoint in the war between the Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). 

Rahul Gandhi on Sunday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's app was leaking data to US companies. In a post on Twitter, Gandhi claimed that the Prime Minister was allowing ‘American companies’ to take away the data of users who signed up for his application.

“Hi! My name is Narendra Modi. I am India’s Prime Minister. When you sign up for my official App, I give all your data to my friends in American companies,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

To this, the BJP countered the charge by saying that Gandhi and his party had zero knowledge of technology.

The development comes close on the heels of the Cambridge Analytica scandal causing a political slugfest between the BJP and Congress. Both the parties accused each other of having links with the data company under the scanner for stealing data from Facebook and influencing elections. 

BJP alleged that Cambridge Analytica was involved in Rahul Gandhi's social media campaigns, especially in last year's Gujarat Assembly election. Congress on its part claimed that BJP availed of the company's services in various state Assembly elections -- Bihar, Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, and Delhi -- besides for its 'Mission 272 plus' in the 2014 general elections.

Apart from these, the two parties also crossed swords several times over the Aadhaar data security. 

In January, when the nodal agency implementing the Aadhaar project, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) filed an FIR against the The Tribune and its reporter Rachna Khaira for an article reportedly exposing the ease with which anybody would steal Aadhaar-related data, Congress had accused the NDA government of destroying the Aadhaar programme and called the FIR "unfortunate".

Here are the top developments in the latest data breach row allegedly involving the Narendra Modi app: 

1. Rahul claims Modi's app steals data: Rahul took a jibe at PM Modi on Twitter on Sunday, alleging that his Narendra Modi app was leaking data to US companies. 

Hi! My name is Narendra Modi. I am India's Prime Minister. When you sign up for my official App, I give all your data to my friends in American companies.

Ps. Thanks mainstream media, you're doing a great job of burying this critical story, as always.

Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 25, 2018
2. BJP counters Rahul's claim: BJP said that Rahul Gandhi and his party had no knowledge about technology. Here is what BJP said in the tweet.

Rahul Gandhi truly shows why he and his party have zero knowledge of technology. All they can do is scare the masses about technology while they continue to steal data using his ‘Brahmastra’ of Cambridge Analytica.

— BJP (@BJP4India) March 25, 2018

3. Union Minister K J Alphons responds: In an apparent response to Rahul Gandhi, Alphons said “I filled up to 10 pages for a US visa form. We have absolutely no problem giving our fingerprints and being naked before the white man at all. When your own government asks for your name and address, there is a massive revolution saying it's intrusion of privacy.”

4. 'Narendra Modi app sending user info to US company': French researcher Elliot Alderson has alleged that information of those who have downloaded the app was being provided to third party US company Clever Tap without users’ consent.

In a series of tweet, Anderson had claimed that user's device information, as well as personal data, was sent to a third-party domain called when a person creates profile in the app.

5. Latest row after govt issued notice to Cambridge Analytica: The government on Friday issued a notice to UK-based Cambridge Analytica, asking it to give a list of clients and the source of data it had collected.

The IT Ministry has asked the firm to respond by March 31 on six questions, including how the company had collected user data, whether consent was taken from the individuals, and how the data was used.

6. Cambridge Analytica behind Rahul Gandhi's 'Gabbar Singh Tax' jibe, claimed BJP: Stepped up its attack on Rahul Gandhi and the Congress, BJP had said that Cambridge Analytica's "footprints" were visible in the Opposition party's campaign in Gujarat. Further, the BJP suggested that Cambridge Analytica had a role in the Congress chief's use of the term "Gabbar Singh Tax".

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also suggested that the firm had a role in Gandhi's social media campaign and the Congress' "poisonous" electioneering in Gujarat.

7. Take action instead of holding press conferences, Congress tells BJP: Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi adviced the BJP that instead of holding press conferences, the ruling party should take action over its allegation that the Opposition party is indulging in data theft to influence elections in India.

Alleging that the BJP has dished out fake news for long, Singhvi said that the spread of false information has been its forte.

"BJP is the party in power. Rather than holding press conferences, why doesn't it take action?" he said about Union Law and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's charge that the Opposition party was using data manipulation and theft to woo voters.

8. Congress called Ravi Shankar Prasad 'lie minister': Equating Ravi Shankar Prasad to Hitler's Goebbels, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that "now a new fake agenda" is being used to stop the proceedings in Parliament. Surjewala added that instead of law minister, Prasad should be called a "lie minister".

"One who stole data (Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg) is also Prime Minister Narendra Modi's friend. Still they are shouting so much. Modiji and Prasad must reply to a few questions," he added.

9. The battle over Aadhaar: Aadhaar has been another flashpoint between the two parties in their battle over data theft and privacy. Congress has time and again accused the NDA government of destroying the Aadhaar programme. In January, Congress had condemned action against the reporter for an article which reportedly exposed the ease with which anybody can steal Aadhaar-related data.

"Instead of helping the poor, it has become a tool of spying and surveillance," Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza had said.

In reply to Motion of Thanks to the President's address on February 7, prime minister Modi had attacked the Congress party over it's questions on the implementation of Aadhaar, saying that Congress was crying foul because we made Aadhaar scheme better.

“I remember clearly, when we won elections, you (the Congress) said Modi will finish Aadhaar because it is our scheme… (But) When Modi furthered it more scientifically and found new ways to implement it, now after it has been implemented and started benefiting the poor, you question its implementation,” the Prime Minister had said.

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