What’s the deal? Centre seeks answers on Sprinklr data row

A Union government official said the IT Department sought an explanation regarding the allegations raised in various petitions pending before the Kerala High Court. 

Published: 24th April 2020 06:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th April 2020 06:25 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: Hardly a week after pulling up the Kerala government for relaxing lockdown restrictions, the Centre has sought clarification from the state on the controversial agreement with US-based tech firm Sprinklr for collecting the data of suspected and positive COVID patients.

In a letter, the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has asked the state IT secretary to furnish the details of the agreement for collection and analysis of data on persons categorised as vulnerable and potentially exposed to COVID-19. State IT Secretary M Sivasankar confirmed that he had received the letter and given a reply without delay.

A Union government official said the IT Department sought an explanation regarding the allegations raised in various petitions pending before the Kerala High Court. There was an allegation that the state government entered into a contract with Sprinklr without the Law Department’s vetting and the personal data collected by the health department was handed over or shared with the company without citizens’ consent. The Centre has prescribed a set of norms for such contracts and sought to know from the state government whether it has followed them. 

‘State govt had no time to spare’

“In the reply, we conveyed that all decisions have been taken in compliance with the norms laid down by the Union government,” said Sivasankar. He said it was conveyed that the state government had no time to spare on account of the alarming situation and even a day’s delay would have been fatal. Sprinklr showed interest in working with the state to tackle the issue.

A large data-analysing company like Sprinklr was selected primarily to ensure support under two scenarios --- first, a large inflow of people from other parts of India and abroad once lockdown is relaxed and second a sudden possible spurt in disease incidence -- which need to be carefully managed, the Centre was told.

In both cases, the government will receive a large quantity of data in multiple formats and a company with big data management and analytics capability would have to be entrusted with the task. Hence, Sprinklr was chosen, it was conveyed. The state informed the Centre that the terms and conditions of the purchase order form and the non-disclosure agreement ensure that the data is secure and right to privacy of the citizen is protected. 

‘Centre can provide the same service’
Kochi: The Centre on Thursday informed the High Court that, with the support of NIC, it is capable of providing all requirements related to data storage, processing and application which are being offered by Sprinklr, if a request comes from Kerala Government.

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