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EC cries off Google tie-up

New Delhi, Jan. 9: The Election Commission has aborted a tie-up with Google to ease voter access to information, after major political parties and cyber security experts raised concerns that it could be used for spying.

“Google made a presentation to the commission for electoral look-up services for citizens to help in the efforts of the commission for better electoral information services. However, after due consideration, the commission has decided not to pursue the proposal any further,” a poll panel release said.

Poll panel sources said the tie-up was not pursued after major political parties, including the Congress and the BJP, as well as cyber security experts opposed it.

“It seems to be a very sensitive issue… done without consulting all stakeholders,” the Congress said in a letter to the panel.

The BJP echoed it. “Though we do not doubt the intentions of the Election Commission, the matter could have been first discussed with various stakeholders at an all-party meeting before taking a final decision. It does raise some security concerns,” it wrote.

The proposed partnership was in an advanced stage, with panel having already signed a non-disclosure agreement with Google. It had, however, not shared any data with the Internet giant.

Google had pitched a project to create a simpler and faster search tool for voters to check whether they were registered correctly or not.

Some cyber security experts also wrote to the poll panel that sharing vital data about Indian citizens with a foreign company could be compromising national security. They pointed out that Google was under a cloud for sharing data with US security agencies, as exposed in the Edward Snowden affair.

“It is shocking that in a country like India, which is called world’s software superpower, the Election Commission has chosen a foreign company like Google which has colluded with American intelligence agencies for global cyber-spying,” the Indian Infosec Consortium wrote.