On July 8, Road Transport minister Nitin Gadkari informed Rajya Sabha that the ministry has provided 87 private and 32 government entities access to the Vahan and Sarathi database, and has collected Rs 65 crore so far by giving such access, in response to a question asked by Congress’ Husain Dalwai. The government has access to 25 crore vehicle registration records and approximately 15 crore driving licence records, Gadkari said. Vahan and Sarathi deal with data related to vehicle registration and driving licenses, respectively.

Gadkari also explained how entities could get hold of the data collected by the Road Transport ministry:

“The Ministry has provided for “Bulk Data Sharing Policy & Procedure” for sharing certain fields in bulk data of vehicle registration. The organization seeking bulk data can obtain the data with an amount of Rs. 3.00 Crore for the FY 2019-20. Educational institutions can obtain the data only for research purposes and for internal use only and are provided the bulk data one time on payment of an amount of Rs. 5.00 lakh only for the FY 2019-20.”

One thing to note here is that on July 15, Gadkari informed Rajya Sabha that the government “obtained” 1,57,93,259 Aadhaar numbers from driving licences and 1,65,29,733 numbers from vehicle registrations, in response to a question asked by Congress’ MP PL Punia. The response in Rajya Sabha did not specify what the word “obtained” means in this context.

Who would want this kind of data? Automobile companies, insurance companies, e-commerce companies and political parties.

How will this data be used? A twitter user @raggedtag posted a picture where Amazon showed her that a particular product would fit her vehicle. The user asked how Amazon might have known what car she drove.

How could it have happened? Amazon had her phone number, which she might have also used during her vehicle’s registration, so Amazon could have had purchased that data from the Road Transport ministry. Alternatively, she could have searched Amazon for products related to that vehicle, and it could have been in their records.