Reason with data security concerns its arrangement with Google for online voter facilitation, the Election Commission of India on Thursday called Google. The commission has now decided to fall back on its old partner, the government controlled NIC (National Informatics Centre), to help voters access their electoral and voting information.
According to Election Commission sources, the tie-up with Google was reviewed at the full commission meeting here on last Thursday, attended by CEC V S Sampath and election commissioners S N A Zaidi and H S Brahma. The commission decided to deal 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.
EC India signed a non-disclosure disagreement with the Google, the commission concerns raised by some cyber experts as well as leading political parties of India. Some security experts deny this tie-up to deliver Indian voter database to a US based company.
"The EC now agrees that it is high 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," a top EC functionary told.
Google said on Thursday that it was "unfortunate that our 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". In a statement issued after EC announced the end of its talks with Google, a company spokesperson recalled that 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".
According to Google's 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.