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Narendra Modi App asks for sweeping access: Camera, audio among 22 inputs (Read only for understanding)

The BJP’s online showcase for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the NaMo App, which is under the spotlight in the wake of the debate over data privacy in social media, asks users to provide access to as many as 22 personal features on their devices, including location, photographs and contacts, microphone and camera.

Comparative data requirements of other apps
A comparative analysis by The Indian Express shows that this is more than what the official app of the Prime Minister’s Office, PMO India App, asks users to volunteer — access to 14 data points. The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology’s citizen-engagement app, MyGov app, asks for permission to access nine data points.

Amazon India’s app needs 17 permissions on various counts from users. PayTM’s app demands access to 26 data points, and Delhi Police’s app asks for access to 25 tracks but they provide a wider range of services.

The NaMo app updates users about achievements of the BJP government, and provides access to the audio of Prime Minister’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

Chances of sharing data with third party
On Saturday, the user of Twitter handle @fs0c131y, described on the account as a “French security expert” and who identified himself to The Indian Express as Robert Baptiste, said the app may be providing personal user data to a third party without the users’ consent. He identified the company as US-based Clever Tap.

A day after these claims, the privacy policy at narendramodi.in — the website associated with the NaMo app — was updated to state that certain user information may be shared with third party services to “offer a better user experience”, “most contextual content and updates”.

The information shared with third parties included, it says, name, email, mobile phone number, device information, location and network carrier.

The policy earlier stated: “Your personal information and contact details shall remain confidential and shall not be used for any purpose other than our communication with you. The information shall not be provided to third parties in any manner whatsoever without your consent.”

Who is the developer?
Described on PlayStore as the Official App of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the NaMo App mentions “ Bharatiya Janata Party, 11 Ashoka Road, New Delhi-110001”, which used to be BJP headquarters till early last month, as the address of the developer.

Promotion through official channels
The NaMo App is promoted through official government channels. Exam Warriors, Modi’s recently launched book aimed at the students preparing for the annual school exams, encourages readers to download the NaMo app. The book was launched by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister for Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar in English, and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Hindi.

Access given on app
According to NaMo App’s description, “it brings to you the latest information, instant updates & helps you contribute towards various tasks. It provides a unique opportunity to receive messages and emails directly from the Prime Minister.”

Under details, the app specifies that “no permission is compulsory on the NM app” and has the facility that the user can disable the access for these permissions in settings. However, when it is downloaded, most of the permissions are given by default. It also mentions that the app can be accessed without registering with an email address or phone.

View of Supreme Court
According to the Supreme Court’s ruling on privacy in August 2017, informed consent is important for data protection and data privacy. The fact that permissions for the NaMo app are not compulsory can only be found if one goes through the Read More section of the app users are not informed of it when downloading the app.

(Adapted from Indian Express)

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