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Names changed but govt sites still under Sprinklr’s control

The two state government websites involved in the collection of Covid-19 data are under the control of US-based firm Sprinklr, it has come to light.

Published: 23rd April 2020 06:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd April 2020 06:42 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI:  The two state government websites involved in the collection of Covid-19 data are under the control of US-based firm Sprinklr, it has come to light. The source codes of two websites – housevisit.kerala.gov.in and citizencenter.kerala.gov.in – reveal that Sprinklr has direct access to them and their earlier domain names with the extension “sprinklr” were removed just to convince people.IT experts who analysed the two websites confirmed that their source codes revealed that the data uploaded on them was validated through Sprinklr’s servers.

“There are three java script files that the websites are using and they belong to Sprinklr. So the Sprinklr code is working with the state government website code to validate the data being uploaded,” said a cyber data security expert.“Design files, cascading style sheet files and others of the two government websites are written by Sprinklr and it validates from the latter’s server,” said the expert.

Joseph C Mathew, the IT advisor to former Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, said the domain names were changed to give an impression that the websites belonged to the government. “This is an example of using canonical URL. The web data and cloud remain the same while the domain name has been changed to give a new identity. A private entity cannot have the rights to a website hosted in the name of a government,” Mathew said.

He said the government was yet to make clear the purpose of roping in Sprinklr.“What are the deliverables of Sprinklr? What did it promise to deliver by accessing the data? How is this data analysis going to help the state government in its fight against Covid-19? These questions should be answered first before initiating a deal with a private firm,” he said.Kerala IT secretary M Sivasankar said while the domain names have been changed, data collection still works on the software provided by Sprinklr. 

Data will remain solely under state govt’s control, says IT secretary

IT Secretary M Sivasankar said: “The data will remain solely under the control of the state government. We are currently using their cloud service for data storage. It will soon be shifted to cloud servers of C-DIT,” he said. Sprinklr did not respond to the TNIE’s e-mail seeking its comments.

C-DIT officials clueless
Officials with C-DIT said they have no details of the two government websites. “We are clueless. The government websites have been designed and hosted by a private firm,” said a C-DIT officer, adding that third-party cloud service was opted for hosting the websites instead of government servers by the firm on the premise that thousands of people will be logging on to the site simultaneously and only a large cloud service will be able to handle the traffic. 

An explanation uploaded by state IT Department on the state government portal admits that the server to which the data gets uploaded does not change with the change of the domain name. “Though C-DIT has an Amazon cloud server account, the capacity enhancement of the cloud server should be done for data collection. Till then, data will be uploaded to the free server provided by Sprinklr,” said the statement. 

It was after Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that Sprinklr’s website was used by the state to upload data that the government decided to revoke its decision and directed local self-government secretaries to stop updating the data on the Sprinklr website and instead do it on ‘housevisit.kerala.gov.in’. “However, it is obvious now that the privacy of government websites has been compromised by giving Sprinklr the validation rights,” said experts.

C-DIT officials clueless
C-DIT officials said they are clueless about the two government websites and that they have been hosted by a private firm. The third party cloud service was opted for hosting the websites on the premise only a large cloud service will be able to handle the traffic.

Allegation spurred govt to take action
It was after Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that Sprinklr’s website was used by the state to upload data that the government decided to revoke its decision and directed local self-government secretaries to stop updating the data on the Sprinklr website and instead do it on ‘housevisit.kerala.gov.in’. 

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