Hyderabad: IT Grids (India) Pvt Ltd, the software company that created the ‘Seva Mitra’ app for the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and is being investigated for alleged data theft by the Telangana police, may have accessed Aadhar details of 7.8 crore citizens (of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) from the State Resident Data Hub (SRDH). SRDH is an Aadhaar-seeded repository of information consolidated from multiple government databases.
While the SRDH data was deleted (on instruction of the Centre due to privacy concerns pertaining to Aadhar data) towards the end of 2017, officials from the Telangana's Information Technology and Electronics department said that IT Grids may have managed to access citizen data from both Telugu states as the SRDH data was never divided between AP and Telangana.
“The SRDH database was updated regularly by the Unique Identification Authority of India, and the information was only sent to the AP govt, which simply send a copy to the Telangana government instead of dividing the data between both states. This continued till the SRDH data was in use. And after 2017 we stopped using it, till we received instructions from the Centre to destroy it fully," said an official from the Telangana’s IT and Electronics department, who did not want to be quoted.
Telangana police officials earlier told Mint that since UIDAI has said that its servers were not breached, IT Grids most likely accessed Aadhar data from the SRDH database. How that happened is the question. So far, the police has not pointed fingers or questioned anyone from the TDP, which hired IT Grids to create the ‘Seva Mitra’ app for the party’s internal use.
It is alleged that the IT company managed to obtain government data (of Aadhar) and of beneficiaries, using that to help the TDP manage its polling booth committees and for its 2019 assembly and Lok Sabha election campaign. As of now, all of the data recovered by the Telangana police has been sent for forensic examination.
While it was earlier believed that the software company had only data pertaining to AP citizens, the SIT revealed in March that IT Grids was also in possession of Aadhar data pertaining to Telangana. In fact, last month a senior police official, who did not want to be quoted, also told Mint that the company’s data contained voter data from other states, apart from having Aadhar details of 7.8 crore citizens from AP and Telangana. Why the voter data was with IT Grids is yet to be known.
The entire issue came to light after one Lokeswara Reddy lodged a complaint at the Madhapur police station (under the Cyberabad police commissionerate, under which Hyderabad’s IT corridor falls) against IT Grids stating that it stole citizens data. Two more cases were registered subsequently, including one by the UIDAI with the Cyberabad police after the SIT found IT Grids in possession of Aadhar details of 7.8 crore citizens.
“The bifurcation of resources of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh has been murky from the start. Most people wouldn't have thought it was going to have an effect digitally too. Now that political parties are misusing this information, Telangana should take legal action against AP government for leaking citizens data to the TDP," said Srinivas Kodali, an independent researcher working on data and the internet.
Throughout the issue, the TDP has maintained that all the information with IT Grids was already in the public domain. AP chief minister and TDP supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu, in an interview with Mint earlier claimed that the case filed against the company was done at the behest of Telangana chief minister (and Telangana Rashtra Samithi supremo) K. Chandrashekhar Rao.