India railway firm scraps plan to monetize customer data following uproar
Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), a state-run firm with a monopoly on online booking of train tickets, has scrapped its plan to monetize customer data after its tender drew concerns from many.
The Indian firm informed the local stock exchange Friday that it was scrapping its proposal because the Indian government had withdrawn the personal data protection bill.
In a tender earlier, the firm had proposed appointing a consultant for digital data monetization on rail passengers' data. The tender sought to explore studying customers' behavioral data, their frequency of journeys, as well as geography, the kind of ticket they purchase and mobile number and gender.
The plan, had it been approved, would have helped the firm increase its revenue by more than $125 million, according to an estimation by the firm. The uproar about the tender prompted the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, chaired by Indian politician Shashi Tharoor, to summon the IRCTC executives to answer public concerns.
🚨ALERT: Hey train travellers, your data will soon be monetised by the govt. & that too, in the absence of a data protection legislation! @IRCTCofficial has uploaded a tender to appoint a consultant for digital data monetisation.🧵on what this means. 1/8https://t.co/YbyF0tazZi pic.twitter.com/x9vMfGlKxC
— Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) (@internetfreedom) August 19, 2022
New Delhi-based advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation, which uncovered the tender, said of its scrapping: "This action shows the positive impact that sustained public advocacy can achieve."
IRCTC processes the vast majority of online rail ticketing in the South Asian market and also runs catering services. The platform has amassed over 100 million users and processes more than 1 million ticket bookings each day.