The Kerala High Court expressed serious reservations over the way the firm was shortlisted and entered into an agreement for wetting data it said but it did not want to upset the ongoing coronavirus control measures.(PTI FILE PHOTO.)
The Kerala High Court expressed serious reservations over the way the firm was shortlisted and entered into an agreement for wetting data it said but it did not want to upset the ongoing coronavirus control measures.(PTI FILE PHOTO.)

Kerala HC orders US-based firm Sprinklr to maintain data confidentiality

In April first week, the state IT department had inked an agreement with the US software firm to process a huge volume of data collected by grassroot health workers of the state. Though no money was involved in the contract, the opposition alleged that it was a breach of privacy and data.
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | By Ramesh Babu
UPDATED ON APR 24, 2020 11:34 PM IST

The Kerala High Court in an interim order on Friday restrained US firm Srpinklr from breaching confidentiality of data and directed the state government to get the consent of individuals before sharing their data with the foreign company.

Though the court expressed serious reservations over the way the firm was shortlisted and entered into an agreement for wetting data it said it did not want to upset the ongoing coronavirus control measures.

Hearing a clutch of petitions filed by opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, BJP state president K Surendran and others a division bench of Justices Devan Ramachandran and T R Ravi asked the state government to anonymise the data and directed Sprinklr not to use these for any promotional campaign.

In April first week, the state IT department had inked an agreement with the US software firm to process a huge volume of data collected by grassroot health workers of the state. Though no money was involved in the contract, the opposition alleged that it was a breach of privacy and data. Later, it was also found that the cabinet and law department were not consulted before signing the deal and the opposition later moved the court alleging serious lapses.

“Sprinklr shall not directly or indirectly deal with the data entrusted to them by the Kerala Government in conflict with the confidentiality clauses in the contract and will return the data as soon as their contractual obligations are over,” the court said in the interim order. The case will be taken up after three weeks.

Both the government and opposition claimed their contentions were upheld by the court. “The court did not stay the agreement. The government took such a decision in a peculiar situation and we are duty-bound to protect data of our people,” said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

“The court expressed serious reservation over the deal. It also rejected the government contention not to seek the consent of individuals. It is time for the government scrap the deal,” said opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala.

After the controversy surfaced, state IT secretary M Shivasankar, also the CM’s private secretary, told the media last week that he took the decision personally as the pandemic situation was getting out of control in the state. Later, he also appeared in a promotional video of the deal which was removed from Sprinklr’s website after the controversy cropped up.

“We direly needed an entry that could vet a considerable amount of health data to identify infection patterns to streamline the containment strategy. Spirnklr agreed to provide the service without charge. The arrangement did not warrant the prior vetting of the finance or legal departments. It was my decision at a desperate time,” he said justifying the deal. But the opposition said he owned up to the decision to save the chief minister.

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