The Election Commission has dropped its earlier plan to associate with online search engine Google due to data security concerns.
Instead, the government-controlled National Informatics Centre (NIC) will help the EC to assist voters to access their electoral information.
The decision was taken at the full commission meeting on Thursday, attended by CEC V S Sampathand election commissioners H S Brahma and S N A Zaidi.
Times of India reported that the commission decided to abandon its negotiations with the American company over three basic issues: the risk to security of voters’ database; entering into a tie-up with a partner with largely commercial interests, even though Google had offered to fund the voter facilitation exercise from its corporate social responsibility budget; and concerns over control that the foreign partner would wield over vital data relating to the Indian voter.
The EC is said to have questioned Google representatives on whether the Indian voter database could be diverted to a third party, particularly so after their six-month contract for voter information look-up ended; who would administer the data; and whether Indian laws would apply in the event of a dispute, as Google often claimed to be governed by US laws alone.
“The EC now agrees that it is too much of a risk to allow a US-based private internet giant full access to the Indian voters’ database. Though the NIC cannot match Google’s capabilities by any measure, the advantages of engaging the latter appear to far outweigh the risks involved. Hence, the commission has decided not to pursue the arrangement with Google any further,” said a top EC executive.
Google said it was unfortunate that its discussion with EC to change the way users access their electoral information that is publicly available, through an online voter lookup too, were not fruitful.
Earlier, Google had helped governments in the Philippines, Egypt, Mexico and Kenya to help make public information on the web easily accessible to internet users across the country.
As per its proposal to the EC, the internet giant had offered its search engines to help voters find out their enrolment status online, and locate their respective polling booths, complete with directions through Google Maps.