Election Commission aborts plan to partner Google after spying fears

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 11 2014, 01:27am hrs
GoogleElection Commission of India has dropped plans to partner Google Inc on a project to ease voter access to information.
The Election Commission has decided not to pursue its proposed tie-up with internet giant Google Inc after concerns over national security were raised from several quarters, including major parties.

US-based Google had earlier this week made a formal presentation to the Election Commission proposing a tie-up with it for voter facilitation services ahead of Lok Sabha elections.

The Commission, in its meeting here today which was attended by Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath and Election Commissioners H S Brahma and S N A Zaidi, deliberated on the issue and decided not to go ahead.

"After due consideration, the Commission has decided not to pursue it any further," said an EC official.

The EC said Google had proposed to provide electoral look up services for citizens to help in Commission's efforts for better electoral information services.

The Commission had earlier signed a non-disclosure agreement with Google but had not shared or handed over any data to the internet giant so far and was deliberating on the tie-up with it for using its search engines for voter facilitation.

Congress and BJP besides some cyberspace experts had voiced concers over the proposed tie-up, saying stakeholders should have been consulted before a decision.

The Congress legal cell has written to the Chief Election Commissioner raising security concerns over the proposed tie-up and hoped it will not have any effect on the electoral process and national security.

BJP also expressed concerns and said the issue could have been discussed first at an all-party meeting by EC.

Questioning the EC's move, a group of cyber security experts had written to the panel amid concerns over sharing of vital data pertaining to Indians to a foreign company.

The concerns also come at a time when eyebrows have been raised over leaking of vital data of Indians to United States intelligence agencies as exposed by Edward Snowden.

Responding to the EC's decision to reject its proposal, Google said it was "unfortunate" that its talks with the Commission were not fruitful.

"Google is committed to help make public information on the web easily accessible to internet users across the country. Google has already helped governments in this regard in several countries, including the Philippines, Egypt, Mexico and Kenya.

"It is unfortunate that our discussion with the Election Commission of India to change the way users access their electoral information, that is publicly available, through online voter look up tool, were not fruitful," a spokesperson of the company said.

The company further said it will continue to develop tools and resources to make civic information universally accessible and will be open to new avenues for engagement with politicians, citizens and civic leaders.