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How A Politically-Linked NGO ‘Covertly’ Collected Voters’ Personal Data: The News Minute’s Report

In the guise of ‘educating’ people on the EC’s Garuda and Voter Helpline apps, the NGO instead collected politically valuable info

What's the news?: An investigation by The News Minute (TNM) found that an NGO collected personal information from thousands of voters in Bengaluru by making their field agents pose as government officials. The Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Institute's actions were enabled by a government order which allowed the NGO to "create awareness" about voter rights and assist in the revision of electoral rolls, reports TNM. Chilume was given permission by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) to conduct Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP), a special voter awareness campaign by the Election Commission of India to revise the electoral polls ahead of the Karnataka Assembly polls of 2023. Fake ID cards were issued to field agents, identifying them as Booth Level Officers of the BBPM, adds TNM. Chilume was further found to have links with an election management company through one of its directors. In a tweet, one of the authors of TNM's article—Prajwal—shared that after the investigation, the BBPM withdrew the permission granted to Chilume allowing it to collect data. BBMP said Chilume had "violated the conditions of permission", however it did not provide information on what exactly the NGO did. "Both BBMP and EC officials confirmed to TNM that despite the cancellation order, the data has not been retrieved from Chilume and its subcontractors," notes the report. Ravikumar Krishnappa, the person behind Chilume and the election management company, was confident that no wrong has been done, arguing that an amendment was passed which allows private agencies to collect data. Krishnappa…

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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.

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