The Congress on Monday claimed that its official mobile phone application had been defunct for the last five months and was only being used for social media updates. It was responding to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s accusation that the Congress did not protect the data of users who had downloaded its app.
Hours after the Congress removed the application from the Google Play Store, the party’s social media chief Divya Spandana said, “The BJP and some journalists started circulating the fake and defunct URL and misleading the people into believing that there was a breach of data, and we were giving out the information to our friends in Singapore,” the Hindustan Times quoted her as saying. “That is why we had to remove it [the app from Google Play Store].”
Over the past few weeks, the safety of user data has come under the scanner following reports that British firm Cambridge Analytica used the private data of more than five crore Facebook users to influence voters during Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, and in several other polls around the world. Ever since, the Congress and BJP have been accusing each other of using the services of the British firm.
Spandana’s comment was in response to the head of the BJP’s information technology cell, Amit Malviya, who accused Congress President Rahul Gandhi of sharing user data from the official Congress application with “friends in Singapore”. Malviya’s comments came after Gandhi criticised the government after a French cyber security expert alleged that the Narendra Modi Android application shared its users’ private information with companies without their consent.
Gandhi had stepped up his criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, accusing him of misusing his position “to build a personal database” with data on millions of Indians. “If as PM he wants to use tech to communicate with India, no problem,” Gandhi tweeted. “But use the official PMO app for it. This data belongs to India, not Modi.”
Union minister Smriti Irani later mocked Gandhi, saying “even Chhota Bheem [a cartoon character] knows that commonly asked permission on apps” is not tantamount to snooping.