Covid-19 data processing deal with US firm rattles Kerala Left Front government

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The Kerala High Court on Tuesday warned the Left Democratic Front government against a data pandemic after the Covid-19.

The warning came while considering a petition filed by one Balu Gopalakrishnan, a lawyer, who alleged foul play in the state government decision to choose the services of US-based Sprinklr Company for processing of data related to Covid-19 patients in the state.

Responding to the state government’s stance that no private data is being shared with the firm, a division bench comprising justices Devan Ramachandran and TR Ravi said that the cannot prima facie agree to the state government's contention that health data cannot be considered private.

Advocate Jaykar KS, who represented the petitioner had submitted that data of Covid-19 patients and those under quarantine is being shared with Sprinklr by personnel deployed by the government as well as through the app installed by the patients.

No agreement or option is being given to the patients and those under quarantine so as to make them aware of sharing health data, including about one's diseases, with a private company, he argued.

Government contended that no private data is being shared. However, the court said it cannot prima facie agree to the contention that sharing of health data does not amount to violation of privacy.

The petitioner alleged that the decision to entrust the job with a foreign company overlooking state entities like the C-DIT and NIC involved legal issues. He stated that the data of citizens were collected without their informed consent, and was stored in a foreign server.

According to the petitioner, more than 1.5 lakh sensitive medical information of the Covid-19 patients are with the company at present. The issue first raised by the Congress-led opposition United Democratic Front.

Leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala alleged corruption behind the deal pushed by the government under the cover of the Covid-19 situation. The Congress leaders have also raised suspicion over the involvement of an IT company owned by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s daughter in the deal since the account of the company was closed in the wake of the controversy.

The issue has also led to division in the ruling front. Even as a slew of CPM leaders have come out in strong support of the state government and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, its ally CPI has expressed major reservations as the party feels it is against the declared policy of Left parties. Unhappy over the stewing controversy, the CPI has conveyed its displeasure to the CPM

The CPI is of the view that the Sprinklr deal, which poses serious questions on the data privacy of individuals, is against the declared stance of the Left parties. “In principle, all the concerns that the Left parties raised over Aadhaar are valid even today. The Left parties have always had a clear stance on data security,” a senior CPI leader was quoted by Indian Express as saying.

 

 

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