Centre warns data commerce companies not to influence elections


New Delhi, May 10: The central government on Thursday warned online firms involved in the business of data commerce not to use collusive methods to influence elections in the country. 

Addressing at the 15th Asia Media Summit, Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said “The data must be available but anonymous. All the online companies who are in the business of data privacy or data commerce must understand these nuances”.

“India cannot be the centre of date pilferage. We are strong believers in the freedom of elections and data commerce through collusive methods cannot be used to influence India’s elections,” he added.

Citing an example, Prasad said he had taken a company stand when the social media giant Facebook and data mining firm Cambridge Analytica’s data breach issue came into the limelight last month.

Cambridge Analytica has been accused of harvesting personal information of more than 50 million Facebook users illegally to influence elections in several countries.

Supporting the freedom of press and its prosperity in open society, the IT Minister raised questions on the journalism ethics and the accountability of media.

He stated freedom of press is an important factor in polity and that a free media can prosper only in an open society, but accountability of media is integral to society.

“The ethical journalism in my view is that it should be fair, true and should present both sides properly. Media of today in the garb of sensationalism, paid news, fake news, too much of unravelling insidious practices seem to duck larger issues,” the Minister asserted.

He said the Centre did not want to interfere but those who firmly believe in the freedom of media and insist upon their rights also need to understand that there was something like accountability also. “Ethical journalism flows from those abiding values.”

Speaking about the benefit of digitalisation, Prasad said we have got 1.20 billion Aadhaar cards, the “digital identity to supplement the physical identity.

“We opened over 300 million bank accounts for poor and linked it to Aadhaar. Now, we have started sending funds directly to the bank accounts of poor of various entitlement. And, we have saved Rs 83,000 crore, close to 10 billion dollars, which used to be pocketed by middlemen and fictitious elements”, he added.


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