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How the Government’s Har Ghar Tiranga Collected Location and Photos of 6 crore Indians

The government’s Har Ghar Tiranga campaign on Independence Day turned out to be an exercise in gathering photos, locations, and other sensitive information

Har ghar tiranga tricolour

To mark the 75th Independence day of India, the government had run a digital campaign asking people to uploaded selfies hoisting the national flag on harghartiranga.com. It received an overwhelming response. 6 crore Indian uploaded their selfies and 5 crore of them had "geotagged the location of their houses with their photos, and also shared their phone numbers to register on the portal," a report published on restofworld.org by journalist Srishti Jaswal says. Why it matters: The photos shared are publicly available for anyone to download or scrape (more on this later). They can be used for training AI based facial recognition systems, law enforcement, identification and surveillance purposes, all without the 'informed' consent of those who shared their personally identifiable information. Moreover, this data can be used for political campaigns or be shared or sold to third parties. Have accessing to such data can help digital marketing firms deliver precisely targeted ads for political and commercial purposes. Medianama's scraping test To test the severity of this problem and how easy it is to scrape data off the website, Medianama decided to do a scraping test. We tried to extract images from harghartiranga's website using a free online tool which required no coding or any other technical knowledge. We were able to download 50 images in about 30 seconds. The images included those of celebrities like Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajnikanth, Sonu Sood and Neil Niten Mukesh to children who seemed to be less 5 years of age. We're not sure…

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I cover privacy, surveillance and tech policy. In my reporting, I try my best to present the most relevant facts, and sometimes add in a pinch of my thoughts.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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