In response to Congress President Rahul Gandhi‘s claims over the Narendra Modi mobile application harvesting and sharing private details of users with third parties, BJP denied the allegation by saying that the app can be used in ‘guest mode’. Rahul Gandhi had earlier tweeted that the user data from the Narendra Modi mobile application was being syphoned off by American companies. The news comes days after the Facebook data breach scandal involving Cambridge Analytica illegally obtaining data of 50 million Facebook users through a third party.
The Bharatiya Janata Party denied the allegations and said the data was being used only for analytics to offer all users the “most contextual content”.
Contrary to Rahul’s lies, fact is that data is being used for only analytics using third party service, similar to Google Analytics. Analytics on the user data is done for offering users the most contextual content.
— BJP (@BJP4India) March 25, 2018
A security researcher, who has previously highlighted some vulnerabilities in India’s Aadhaar project and who tweets under the @fs0c131y handle, posted a series of tweets on Saturday stating the app was sending personal user data to a third-party domain that was traced to an American company.
When you create a profile in the official @narendramodi #Android app, all your device info (OS, network type, Carrier …) and personal data (email, photo, gender, name, …) are send without your consent to a third-party domain called https://t.co/N3zA3QeNZO. pic.twitter.com/Vey3OP6hcf
— Elliot Alderson (@fs0c131y) March 23, 2018
The tweets, which come at a time of heightened sensitivity around the alleged misuse of personal data amid the unfolding Facebook-Cambridge Analytica controversy, triggered a stir on social media.
Rahul Gandhi had earlier tweeted, “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…”
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
The BJP has accused the Congress of trying to divert attention and for engaging Cambridge Analytica in India, a charge the opposition party has denied.
In response to the latest allegations, the BJP stated, “The Narendra Modi App is a unique app, which unlike most apps, gives access to users in ‘guest mode’ without even any permission or data… The app does not ask for blanket permissions when the app is started.” Sources said the permissions required are all “contextual and cause-specific”. For example, a selfie campaign requires access to the camera and/or photo gallery.
“Contact access is required to connect with friends or fellow party workers on the New India connect module. If a person has entered his email address and date of birth, he receives a personalised birthday greeting from the Prime Minister. Each function asks for the specific permission when access is required,” a source said.
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”.
“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.