IRCTC Likely to Axe Plan to Monetise Passenger Data
Representational use only.Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
The Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) appears to be making a U-turn on its already released tender to hire a consultant to monetise its passenger and freight customer data with the aim to generate revenue up to Rs 1,000 crore.
A consultant of international repute was expected to study the data of passenger, freight and parcel business as well as any vendor-related data from applications of Indian Railways, according to the report.
According to PTI, the tender may now be withdrawn amid concerns over privacy issues. Several activists and NGOs had raised concerns over the tender and outlined its pitfalls on Twitter, especially the sweeping scope of the assessment the consultant was meant to carry out.
“A profit maximisation goal will result in greater incentives for data collection, violating principles of data minimisation & purpose limitation. Past experiences from the misuse of Vahan database amplify fears of mass surveillance & security risks,” wrote Delhi-based Internet Freedom Foundation.
Now, as per the agency, the consultant would advise the IRCTC in steps to improve its existing business and plan strategies to monetise future opportunities. "IRCTC will also develop new businesses on its own platform and will need assistance from market leaders. IRCTC does not store any financial data of its customers at its end, as at the time of online payment for its various services, control is passed on to the respective payment gateway or bank for the payment," according to the PTI news agency's sources.
According to the tender document, the IRCTC had chalked up a plan to study and use customer data including “name, age, mobile number, gender, address, e-mail ID, class of journey, payment mode, login or password,” in addition to behavioural data such as payment and booking mode, frequency of journey, etc.
Railways officials told Hindustan Times that the plan may be pulled despite the request for proposal (RFP) being issued. “Railways may not go ahead with the process due to issues related to data protection laws,” said an official, requesting anonymity.
The document titled ‘The Scope of Work for Project A: For study of Monetization of Digital Data of Indian Railways(IR)’ reportedly stated that the consultant, once finalised, will be provided the details of applications and the data collected thereon for conducting the study for 'Monetization of Digital Data of Indian Railways'.
"IRCTC will also develop new businesses on its own platform and will need assistance from market leaders. IRCTC does not store any financial data of its customers at its end, as at the time of online payment for its various services, control is passed on to the respective payment gateway or bank for the payment," according to the PTI news agency's sources.
Interestingly, an IRCTC official has outrightly dismissed media reports claiming it is planning to monetise passenger and freight customer data.
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