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Indian PM under fire for alleged app data sharing

Nicole Goebel with Reuters
March 26, 2018

A row has broken out in India between Modi's BJP party and the opposition INC over the prime minister's alleged misuse of data. An anonymous hacker claims Modi's official app shared users' data without consent.

Narendra Modi
Image: picture-alliance/Zumapress

An anonymous hacker who describes himself as a "French security researcher" using the moniker Elliot Alderson on Twitter alleges that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's official mobile application is "sending personal data to third-party companies without user consent."

The allegations have led to a Twitter war of words between the ruling BJP party and the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress (INC) - also known as Congress.

Its president, Rahul Gandhi, mocked the PM on his official account, saying "Hi! My name is Narendra Modi…When you sign up for my official app, I give all your data to my friends in American companies."

The ruling BJP hit back at Gandhi, at one point calling him "technically challenged" on Twitter.

The party's Twitter handle states that the app "is a unique app," which allows people to use it in guest mode, thus not giving access to personal data. It goes on to say that "permissions required are all contextual and cause-specific" and "used for analytics only."

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INC app also affected?

Alderson, according to his account, also checked the Congress mobile app, which he says also breaches privacy laws by not properly encrypting users' data.

The INC promptly hit back, saying that there was "no truth to this allegation" and that there had been "NO breach of data whatsoever." Its app, however, has disappeared from the Google Play Store, which the party says is because the "wrong URL was being circulated and people were being misled."

The spat comes after various hackers, researchers and journalists identified loopholes in India's massive national identity card database Aadhaar – the world's largest with over 1.1 billion users.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the semi-government body responsible for Aadhaar, in January filed a criminal case against the Tribune newspaper for publishing a story that said access to the card's database could be bought.

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According to reports, several researchers and journalists claim they have been harassed for investigating and writing about Aadhaar.

Meanwhile, US and UK authorities areinvestigating Cambridge Analytica after a whistleblower this month alleged that the firm illegally harvested information from over 50 million Facebook accounts to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

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