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We never shared personal data like BJP, says Congress social media head Divya Spandana

Congress’ social media department head calls for a policy on privacy, says unlike the BJP app, WithINC never shared users’ info with a third party.

india Updated: Mar 27, 2018 13:00 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Divya Spandana,BJP,Congress
Congress’ social media department head Divya Spandana.(File Photo)

A slanging match between the Congress and the BJP has erupted over the alleged data leak, with both political parties accusing each other of stealing and sharing personal details of individuals with companies based abroad. Congress’ social media department head Divya Spandana, also popular as Ramya, dismissed the claims that the party collected or shared personal data through the WithINC app. Excerpts:

The BJP has accused the Congress of sharing the users’ personal data to a Singapore-based firm. The ruling party had earlier alleged that the Congress compromised national security by roping in political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica to run its 2019 election campaign? What do you want to say?

Basically, this Elliot Alderson (a French cyber security researcher) put out a tweet saying that the membership on the INC app is unencrypted and the servers are based in Singapore. The link that he posted is actually a defunct link. We have not had membership on that app for the past five months. Once we removed that membership from the app, there is nothing to be encrypted because we are not collecting any data. The only thing that the app was being used for was to get social media updates — Twitter, Facebook or whatever INC (Indian National Congress) and Rahul Gandhi was posting. In November, we got a brand new website and we got the membership pulled out from the app and transitioned that to the website, which is encrypted. The membership data was being collected only on the website and these data are being stored in our servers, Amazon Cloud Services, which is based out of Mumbai.

Why did you pull down the app from the (Google) Play store?

The BJP and some journalists started circulating the fake and defunct URL and misleading people into believing that there was a breach of data, and (that) we were giving out the information to our friends in Singapore. That is why we had to remove it.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling him the ‘Big Boss who likes to spy on Indians’, and claimed that the NaMo app secretly recorded audio, video and contacts. How do you substantiate that allegation?

The NaMo app seeks 22 permissions. That is ridiculous. You don’t need that much. What are you doing with it? You are sending that data to an American company without the consent of the users. Of course, they have given you the permission but they haven’t given you the permission to share their data. That is the difference between them and us. Our app, our website, everything is made in-house. Our coders are in-house. The data are stored with us. We don’t have any third party entity involved and we are not sharing (the users’ information) with anybody. We explicitly tell the users not to share their passwords. How does the Prime Minister, in his individual capacity, have an application and using our data? The BJP has been caught lying. We have put them on the mat. They wanted to put the blame on us by claiming that we are engaged with Cambridge Analytica, which is rubbish and has backfired on them. Rahul Gandhi is raising pertinent questions to which the BJP has no answers.

Does India need a privacy policy?

If you are online today, it is very easy to track you. India should have a privacy policy. There should be something called consent. Look at the Aadhaar leaks or even leaks on NaMo app.

First Published: Mar 27, 2018 07:34 IST