This year on Independence Day, millions of people in India took to their roofs to wave the tricolour as part of the central government’s Har Ghar Tiranga programme, click a photo with him and upload the images, with a geotag, in a private. website hosted under the banner of the Ministry of Culture, as part of the Independence Day celebrations
A now-viral report from Srishti Jaswal published by the international non-profit journalism organisation, Rest of the World, quotes digital rights activists as saying the Bharatiya Janata Party’s voter outreach programme, first discussed during the meeting of BJP in Hyderabad in July, was actually a disguised scheme to collect data from citizens, which could now be misused by private companies seeking to trade personal data.
According to the report of Rest of World news website, after the show, which sparked a nationalist frenzy thanks to aggressive social media campaigns by the BJP’s IT wings, on August 15, nearly 60 million Indian citizens uploaded their photos with the national flag on the website, https://harghartiranga.com, with nearly 50 million of them geo-tagging their home locations with their photos, as well as sharing their phone numbers to sign up for the portal.
“No country has ever executed such a massive scale of geo-tagging of its own citizens as we see in the Har Ghar Tiranga scheme,” Srinivas Kodali, a researcher with the Indian Free Software Movement, told the rest of the world. “Previously, there have been some piecemeal attempts to geotag citizens with the intent of digital commerce; however, not on this scale with an electoral intention.”
“No country has ever executed such a massive scale of geotagging its own citizens.” The photos, many of which were uploaded along with location information, are still publicly available on the website. Although location information is not publicly available, it is retained by the website, which could lead to theft, hacking, and stalking. When siled information such as phone numbers, photos and location is processed with other data sets such as constituency population and voter preferences, it can make citizens vulnerable to “geo-propaganda,” Kodali said.
“Such minute details of people can be used to micro-target them in a way that we can’t even anticipate their impact. For example, this data can be used to target entire neighbourhoods of Muslims or people with opposing political beliefs,” he added.
“It’s a clear indicator that those behind the website are looking to collect additional data from users,” he says, adding that integrating a Google login with the website could also allow website creators to collect additional personally identifiable information of Indian citizens. using the website. By collecting numerous metadata and personal indicators of this type, a complete demographic and psychological profile of the entire population can be created.
While most of the Indian government websites are hosted on official servers at nic.in, the Har Ghar Tiranga portal is hosted through Amazon web servers. According to a press release published by Asian News International (ANI), Tagbin, a private company based in India, Singapore and Dubai, is behind the website. It is not clear where the data collected by the website is stored. The website also shares your IP address with more than 15 other websites, some with country code extensions from other parts of the world, making the private data of Indian citizens vulnerable to hacking. Tagbin did not respond to an email from the rest of the world.
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