Twitter, Railway Firm IRCTC Summoned By Parliament Panel Over Data Privacy


Twitter, Railway Firm IRCTC Summoned By Parliament Panel Over Data Privacy

Twitter has been accused of hiring a government agent and giving access to user data.

New Delhi:

A parliamentary panel has called top executives of social media giant Twitter on Friday on the issue of citizens’ data security and privacy.

The meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology chaired by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor is being held in the backdrop of reports that a former head of security at the social media company has filed complaints with US officials alleging that the company misled regulators about its cybersecurity defences and its problems with fake accounts.

Meanwhile, Twitter has said that it was a false narrative and the allegations and opportunistic timing appear designed to capture attention and inflict harm on the company, its customers and its shareholders.

According to international media reports, former head of security at Twitter Peiter Zatko has also alleged that Twitter knowingly allowed the Indian government to place its agents on the company payroll where they had “direct unsupervised access to the company’s systems and user data”.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi attacked the government over the issue on Wednesday. Tagging a related report, he tweeted, “Snooping, threatening and stealing are the foundations of the ‘Amritkaal’ promised by the PM.” It was not clear if the matter will be taken up at the panel meeting.

The Tharoor-led panel has been holding meetings with various stakeholders including tech companies, social media firms, ministries and other regulators on the issue of citizens’ data security and privacy.

The panel has also called officials of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) on the same issue of citizens’ data security and privacy, according to the notice of the meeting issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

The IRCTC, which has more than 10 crore users, of which 7.5 crore are active users, has floated a tender to hire a consultant to monetise its passenger and freight customer data to generate revenue up to Rs 1,000 crore.

Sources in the panel said on Wednesday that the issue will be taken up for discussion in the meeting with the IRCTC officials.

The Railways has not officially commented on the tender. However, highly placed sources said it will be rescinded considering the fact that the government has withdrawn the Data Protection Bill from Parliament.

The Centre had on August 3 withdrew the long-awaited Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2019 to replace it with a new bill with a ‘comprehensive framework’ and ‘contemporary digital privacy laws’.

According to the IRCTC tender document, the data to be studied will include information captured by the transporter’s various public-facing applications such as “name, age, mobile number, gender, address, e-mail ID, class of journey, payment mode, log in or password” and other details.


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