Congress demanded that the government release a white paper explaining “the data points, format, algorithms and procedures used to procure and integrate the data”.

Congress accuses TRS govt of violating privacy of citizens through Samagra Vedika
news Politics Sunday, July 07, 2019 - 12:02

The Congress party on Saturday demanded that the Telangana government release a white paper on 'Samagra Vedika', an initiative by the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government in the state, which integrated data of citizens from 25 departments.

Addressing a press conference at Gandhi Bhavan in Hyderabad on Saturday, All India Congress Committee (AICC) Spokesperson Dr Sravan Dasoju referred to a speech delivered by Jayesh Ranjan, the Principal Secretary of Industries, Commerce, and ITE&C, at a national conference wherein he said that he could give complete information of any person if he gets their 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?" Sravan asked.

Pointing out that the Telangana police had registered a case against IT Grids, a company associated with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) for allegedly securing the personal data of citizens of Andhra Pradesh, the Congress asked whether a similar case would be booked against the Telangana government for accumulating and integrating 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 rights and also a 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," Sravan claimed.

The Congress leader also pointed out that there was no clarity on how secure the data was and if accumulated information was being shared with private parties. 

Adding that the Supreme Court, in the past, had issued several guidelines for the protection of privacy, Sravan said, "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."

Samagra Vedika had recently even found a mention in the Economic Survey 2019 released by the Centre, a day before the presentation of Union Budget. It said that the initiative linked around 25 existing government datasets using a common identifier — the name and address of an individual. 

Most of the data was collected during a mammoth Integrated Household Survey (IHS) that the state government conducted in 2014. 

"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," Sravan said in a statement.

 "State government must release a 'White Paper' explaining the data points, format, algorithms and procedures used to procure and integrate the data," he demanded. The Congress also sought the details of agencies involved in the process of accumulation, integration and digitisation of data and said that this information should be made public.

"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?" Sravan asked.

He said that the Congress would approach Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy to seek a probe into the matter.

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