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Namo App – Privacy Concern be Dammed

Namo app, facebookThe growing disconnect between the existing and proposed privacy protection measures and the increasing and increasingly worrisome linkage of personal information from all sorts of web sites and mobile applications, we believe it is time to move beyond what is clearly a losing battle with third-party aggregators and examine what roles first-party sites can play in protecting the privacy of their users. After the viral exposure of loopholes in the Aadhaar security system in January’17 now it’s all about the Namo app it is being claimed that the application shares private information of its users with third party companies without their consent.

It is being claimed that the app collects extensive information about its user’s device, including the type of operating system and network, as well as personal details such as name, gender, pictures and email address, and sends it to a third party domain without the user’s consent.

In the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica controversy, it is clear that the Indian electorate needs to be on guard for the absolute worst-case scenario. One should not be surprised if the data collected from the app will also be used by allied organizations for promoting so called social cause in the name of participative governance.

While third party involvement is not unusual in application development, what is worrying in this case is the nature of information they get access to, said Mr. Kislay Chaudhary, a cyber security Analyst who is consulted by several government agencies. “It is a question of accountability,” he said. “It is clear that there is a third party involved but who will be held responsible if the data available with them is misused? When any third party has access to demographic details and device details, it can be put into analytics in numerous ways, both ethical and unethical.”

This calls for immediate audit of all government websites and applications, he argued. “And this audit has to be done more frequently than most government agencies currently do,” he said.
The NaMo app is not too different from Facebook and for all purposes needs to be viewed as a social media platform. While the primary purposes of Modi’s app may centre on feedback and e-governance, it directly and indirectly involves the mass collection of personal data that could be used for electoral campaigning and voter profiling.

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A Twitter trend, #Delete NaMo App, has started circulating, requesting people to delete the Modi’s personal app. It’s unclear whether #Delete NaMo App will ultimately help anymore than the #Delete Facebook trend. Deleting these political apps and Facebook will not help us when poor privacy standards and corporate greed incentivizes the collection of personal information through invasive techniques.

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