SCOOP | Govt signed a shady deal that sold vehicular data of entire country to a company for cheap. This firm developed an entire business model based on this data and earned crores in revenue.

This happened 5 yrs before a policy to share the same data!…
With this, the privacy of crores of Indians was compromised.

Strangely, the sale of bulk data was based on a proposal from the firm itself! The firm, Fast Lane Automotive, has been using the data to develop auto tech solutions and has global clients.
In 2019, the govt announced Bulk Data Sharing Policy that would sell vehicle data to private firms. After much backlash over privacy concerns it withdrew the policy less than a year later.

This was FIVE years after it had already sold data and later rescinded the deal.
It was the skeletons of 2019’s dead policy that led us to the deal that preceded it. @nit_set @Kum_Sambhav guided the endeavour to peel back the layers of this shady deal.

Here’s what we found:
Officials red-flagged the deal over its utter lack of price discovery -- meaning data was sold cheap.

One senior official even noted that the deal 'favoured the customer heavily.'
The same official even noted that another firm had applied for the same data but this never went through. FLA, as a consequence, enjoyed an exclusive and cheap bounty. Was he hinting at something sinister?

But this is not all. The ministry ensured the firm got a bonanza.
The docs — obtained via RTI filed by @digitaldutta and later by me — show the Transport Min even offered the firm a 'grace period'. Under this, the firm got a special window under which it would receive the data free of cost. Multiple officials, even the NIC, objected to this.
All objections were overruled.

As far as the NIC goes, it was completely bypassed despite being the custodian of data. Why does that matter, you ask?
Because, ultimately, it was NIC that rang serious alarm bells over privacy issues and data supply was subsequently snapped off. The company still holds the data, though.

Regarding privacy -- there'll be more. Tomorrow. Watch this space for part 2 of the series.
If you enjoyed reading this rather convoluted story, please thank @anoophilip who polished the copy initially. @AnujSrivas @svaradarajan from @thewire_in for final edits. End.

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