BJP terms Rahul 'tech illiterate' over Congress' attack on Modi's NaMo app

This new age is the age of information which Rahul ji will not understand, says BJP's Sambit Patra
Holding that commonly asked permissions on apps does not amount to snooping, the Bharatiya Janata Paty (BJP) on Monday dubbed as "technological illiteracy" Congress President Rahul Gandhi's accusations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was misusing his position to build a personal database "with data on millions of Indians via the NaMo App".

"This is a classic case of technological illiteracy of Rahul Gandhi. Technologically he is very backward. Analytics is not equivalent to spying or snooping. Those technologically ignorant are trying to describe it as snooping and spying," BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said at a press conference here.

Patra said that rattled by the Cambridge Analyitca expose, the Congress is trying everything to divert attention and to stop the Prime Minister from communicating with others.

The war of words between the Congress and BJP on data sharing escalated on Monday with Rahul Gandhi dubbing Prime Minister Narendra Modi the "Big Boss who likes to spy on Indians" and Union minister Smriti Irani saying even 'Chhota Bheem' knows it is not snooping.

Twitter was the battleground as the debate on the prickly issue spiralled and the ruling BJP accused the opposition Congress of data "theft", saying it had taken off its app after the allegations came out in the open.

The Congress, however, claimed it had not done so. The site was "dysfunctional" and all memberships were done through the party's official website, it said.

Taking to Twitter after allegations surfaced that data from the prime minister's official app was being shared without the consent of users, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said the Prime Minister was misusing his position and the NaMo app secretly recorded audio, video and contacts. He alleged that the NaMo app secretly records the user's location, audio, video, contact information and other personal data.

Sources held that the data is being used for analytics using third-party service, similar to Google Analytics.

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

1) Rahul Gandhi technologically illiterate:
 BJP's Sambit Patra tweeted: "Rahul Gandhi is technologically illiterate. He does not know that data analysis is not equivalent to spying. This new age is the age of information which Rahul ji will not understand."

"The Congress does not want any kind of communication of the Prime Minister with people, volunteers and students. When he shares his thoughts on monthly radio programme 'Mann Ki Baat', the Congress leaders complain about it to Election Commission. Their one point agenda is to stop the Prime Minister from communicating with others because the Congress is scared of it," he said.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi is technologically illiterate. He does not know that data analysis is not equivalent to spying. This new age is the age of information which Rahul ji will not understand: Sambit Patra, BJP pic.twitter.com/LgWKwb5XdI

— ANI (@ANI) March 26, 2018

Patra accused Gandhi of spreading lies. "He is so rattled by the Cambridge Analytica expose that he daily tries to divert attention from it," he said.

Refuting Gandhi's allegations of spying through App data, he said that Narendra Modi App provides a platform for millions of his fans and party cadre to connect directly with the Prime Minister.

"It is a 'one of its kind' App which enables unprecedented engagement and interactivity with the Prime Minister," he said adding that the Congress chief needs to brush up his knowledge.

He claimed that it would be no wonder if Rahul Gandhi will tweet tomorrow that NaMo App is connected to EVM machines and EVM tampering happens through it.

Patra also accused Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of using government money to run the 'Siddaramaiah App'.

"Is it right to use public money for personal political branding? This is not only data theft but also robbery of public money," he said.

2) 'It's a data leak government'The Congress today questioned how safe the people's money and their personal information were under the BJP-led government in the wake of a string of bank frauds and allegations related to data theft.

"It is an attempt like Bigg Boss of spying on Indians. Modiji is attacking the privacy. It is a data leak government," senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi told reporters.

He said when there is an official government app that seeks information on 15 points, what is the need for having a personal 'Namo app' which seeks data on 22 indicators.

"On one hand there is data leak in banks with crores being siphoned from the country by people like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya, and on the other, there is leak of data happening in the country.

"How safe is your data in banks? Today there is a loot in banks. People have run away with money. How safe is your money in the banks," he questioned.

He cited the alleged "data leak of 10,000 ATMs of Punjab National Bank and details of 32 lakh (3.2 million) State Bank of India (SBI) credit and debit card holders being compromised".

3) Smriti Irani hits back at Rahul GandhiSmriti Irani tore into Rahul Gandhi for cornering Narendra Modi over NaMo app. Irani hit back with a series of derisive tweets, saying that Gandhi now knows what the NCC thanks to the NaMo app.

"RahulGandhi ji, even Chhota Bheem' knows that commonly asked permission on Apps don't tantamount to snooping," she said, recalling the character from the animated series for children.

"Ye kya RahulGandhi ji it seems your team is doing the opposite of what you asked for. Instead of #DeleteNaMoApp, they have deleted the Congress App itself."

"Now that we're talking tech, would you care to answer @RahulGandhi ji why Congress sends data to Singapore Servers which can be accessed by any Tom, Dick and Analytica?" the information and broadcasting minister added.

According to BJP's IT cell in-charge Amit Malviya, the INC membership website is no longer available.

ALSO READ: Rahul Gandhi alleges data 'leak' from NaMo android app, BJP hits back

"Message you will get 'We are incorporating minor changes to the website. Please visit us again in a while to access the INC membership process...' What is the Congress party trying to hide? http://membership.inc.in," Malviya tweeted.

.@RahulGandhi ji, even ‘Chhota Bheem’ knows that commonly asked permission on Apps don’t tantamount to snooping.

— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) March 26, 2018

Now that we're talking tech, would you care to answer @RahulGandhi ji why Congress sends data to Singapore Servers which can be accessed by any Tom, Dick and Analytica? pic.twitter.com/U5YLTckBsf

— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) March 26, 2018
4) Congress says its app 'dysfunctional': The Congress today took down its 'WithINC mobile app, saying it had been defunct for five months and emphasising that there was no breach of data through it.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the allegations of Congress collecting data through this app were the "half truth".

"As is usual with the BJP, they did not tell you that the 'WithINC' app had only 15,000 downloads. It had become defunct because our people do not like the 'missed call' membership. Congressmen believe in physical or offline membership. In contrast, the Narendra Modi app has had 50 lakh downloads," he said.

Earlier, the Congress, on its official Twitter handle, said that the 'WithINC' was only a membership app and had not been in use for over five months since the party moved membership to www.inc.in from November 16, 2017.

"This morning we were forced to remove the app from the Google Play store as the wrong URL was being circulated and people were being misled.

It said that the app was being used for "social media updates alone since transitioning the membership to the website".

"There is no truth to this allegation. There has been no breach of data whatsoever," it said.

Congress social media in-charge Divya Spandana Ramya said the URL pointed out by BJP has been dysfunctional for a while and membership is through the INC website.

"We don't have any other membership site. Nothing is compromised...We haven't taken down anything," she said.

5) Congress may have deleted its app: Amid a raging political war of words over data leaks, the Congress appears to have taken its app 'With INC' off Google PlayStore. A cursory search for the app on Apple App Store also fails to throw up any results for the Congress app. Clicking on one of the links that come up after a Google search reads, "This content is not available in your country yet. We're working to bring the content you love to more countries as quickly as possible. Please check back again soon."  

French security researcher Baptiste Robert, who is known by his Twitter username Elliot Alderson, also put out a tweet saying, "Did @INCIndia removed their #android #app from the PlayStore just before my tweet?" Earlier in the day, Robert had tweeted, "The IP address of http://membership.inc.in is 52.77.237.47. This server is located in Singapore. As you are an #Indian political party, having your server in #India is probably a good idea."

Has #Congress party deleted its #app?

Read @ANI story | https://t.co/tpI4cIU5Cc pic.twitter.com/ufVyIssYH6

— ANI Digital (@ani_digital) March 26, 2018

6) Modi the 'Big Boss' who wants to spy on citizens: Rahul Gandhi

"Modi’s NaMo App secretly records audio, video, contacts of your friends and family and even tracks your location via GPS. He’s the Big Boss who likes to spy on Indians. Now he wants data on our children. 13 lakh NCC cadets are being forced to download the app," tweeted Rahul Gandhi. 

Modi’s NaMo App secretly records audio, video, contacts of your friends & family and even tracks your location via GPS.

He’s the Big Boss who likes to spy on Indians.

Now he wants data on our children. 13 lakh NCC cadets are being forced to download the APP.#DeleteNaMoApp

— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 26, 2018

 
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.https://t.co/IZYzkuH1ZH

— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 25, 2018

ALSO READ: Rahul Gandhi alleges data 'leak' from NaMo android app, BJP hits back

7) Congress shares app users' data with friends in Singapore', alleges BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya

Amit Malviya echoed Irani, saying the Congress app was sharing user data with Gandhi's friends in Singapore.

"Hi! my name is Rahul Gandhi. I am the President of India's oldest political party. When you signup for our official App, I give all your data to my friends in Singapore," he tweeted. 

In subsequent tweets, he cited bits from the Congress web site's privacy policy.

The bit Malviya highlighted from the Congress party's privacy policy when using its website, says: "For making the use of Website effective and resourceful Indian National Congress may share your information with vendors, consultants, and other service providers or volunteers who are engaged by or working with us and who need access to such information to carry out their work for us; with candidates, organizations, groups or causes that we believe have similar political viewpoints, principles or objectives".

The remaining portion of that paragraph not highlighted about the Congress's privacy policy says: "...when you give us your consent to do so, including if we notify you on the Website, that the information you provide will be shared in a particular manner and you provide such information; when we believe in good faith that we are required to do so by law, court order, as requested by other government or law enforcement authority..."

Malviya said that "implications are grave" about the part of the Congress's privacy policy about sharing users'' information "with candidates, organizations, groups or causes that we believe have similar political viewpoints, principles or objectives".

The BJP leader said those with viewpoints similar to the Congress could mean, "Maoists, stone pelters, Bharat Ke Tukde Gang, Chinese embassy to globally 'renowned' orgs like Cambridge Analytica, the field is extensive and wide open."

Hi! My name is Rahul Gandhi. I am the President of India’s oldest political party. When you sign up for our official App, I give all your data to my friends in Singapore. pic.twitter.com/ceCTkod17D

— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) March 26, 2018

Full marks to @INCIndia for stating upfront that they'll give your data to **practically anyone** - undisclosed vendors, unknown volunteers, even 'groups with similar causes'. In theft of all forms, Congress has never been discreet! pic.twitter.com/FCSIv6nPMn

— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) March 26, 2018

When Congress says they will share your data with like-minded groups, the implications are grave. From Maoists, stone pelters, Bharat Ke Tukde Gang, Chinese embassy to globally ‘renowned’ orgs like Cambridge Analytica, the field is extensive and wide open. pic.twitter.com/E6S8MJwgiy

— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) March 26, 2018

Inspired by Sonia Gandhi’s ‘all power no accountability’ dictum, Congress will take all your data, even share it worldwide with orgs like Cambridge Analytica but will not take responsibility of it! Their own policy says so. pic.twitter.com/Vj2WH5UbVr

— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) March 26, 2018

All of you who complained about the surge in anti-BJP and anti-government messages and fake news in recent days on social media, now know who was behind it - an insidious Cambridge Analytica hired by a desperate Congress!

— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) March 21, 2018

8) NaMo app does not seek blanket permissions for users' data: BJP: The BJP sources said that the data exposed by the French Twitter user is the data "entered by the user on his own device" and hence it was "not a security breach", emphasizing that the person does not have access to "any data apart from his own data".

They held that the data is being used for analytics using third party service, similar to Google Analytics.

"The data in no way is stored or used by the third party services. Analytics and processing on the user data is done for offering users the most contextual content. This ensures that a user gets the best possible experience by show content in his/her own language.

"It also enables a unique, personalized experience according to a person's interests. For example, a person who looks up content related to agriculture will get agriculture related content prominently. A person from Tamil Nadu will get notifications in Tamil and get an update when the Prime Minister is in Tamil Nadu," the source said.

We all know that Rahul Gandhi is no match for Narendra Modi. But seeing his fright about the Namo App, is very amusing. When his bots tried to trend #DeleteNamoApp day before yesterday, the popularity and downloads of Namo App only increased. Today, it will be no different! pic.twitter.com/Wnan0IQFIV

— BJP (@BJP4India) March 25, 2018

9) NaMo app describes itself as the "official app of the Prime Minister of India": At the Google Play Store, the NaMo app describes itself as the "official app of the Prime Minister of India". However, the app -- or the website 'narendramodi.in' -- is not owned by or affiliated to the India government, which generally uses the domain 'nic.in' or 'gov.in'.

The website is hosted by a US-based company Akamai, headquartered in Massachusetts and the app is owned by Modi in his private capacity, not by the Prime Minister's office, and he has provided 11, Ashok Road, New Delhi - BJP's headquarter till a few months back - as the registered address.

10) '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 in.wzrkt.com. when a person creates profile in the app.

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.

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.

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