Prasanto K. Roy, a government policy adviser from New Delhi, is concerned. In 2017, he began sending regular donations to the Indian fact-checking organization Alt News in support of its work to counter online disinformation. But on July 5 the non-profit said that Indian payment gateway Razorpay, which it used to receive donations, had shared its donors’ records with New Delhi police following the arrest of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair last month.
Roy is now hesitant to use Razorpay because he’s concerned about technology companies transferring data, including his own, to law enforcement without permission. “When a payment gateway distributes donor databases at an excessive police request, that information can be misused by the police or others who can reach it,” he said. “India doesn’t even have privacy laws yet.”
The full extent of the data Razorpay shared with police remains unclear, but Alt News said that the data it collects from donors includes phone numbers, email addresses, and tax numbers. A police official told the Hindustan Times that the police are collecting data from banks to reference the Alt News data.
The investigation appears to be part of an ongoing investigation into whether Alt News received donations from outside India, after police alleged that the parent of the organization received money from several other countries, including Pakistan and Syria. Zubair, the co-founder of Alt News, was arrested on June 27 for a 2018 tweet that allegedly hurts religious feelings, but is also under investigation on other charges, including receiving foreign funds under the Indian Foreign Contribution (Regulation) ) Act, which limits foreign donations to non-profit organizations.
While the arrest has led many Indians to fear that the police is destroying internet freedom, it has also highlighted the limited legal protections of privacy in the world’s largest democracy, which does not have a comprehensive data protection law. The stakes are growing as more people in India use the internet for leisure, communication and commerce. According to Boston Consulting Group, the country’s digital payments market, already worth $3 trillion, will skyrocket to $10 trillion by 2026.
Razorpay has faced social media reactions and threats from a boycott for sharing donor data without informing Alt News first. “A lot of donors and fundraisers said they wouldn’t use Razorpay anymore, and that was my first reaction too,” Roy said, adding that other companies might have collapsed under the same police pressure.
In a public statement about TwitterRazorpay did not mention Alt News and said the data shared was “limited to what was within the scope of the investigation”. Razorpay CEO Harshil Mathur tweeted that police were trying to “determine whether there were foreign donations or not” and claimed that donor tax IDs and addresses were not shared. Razorpay did not respond to a request for comment; Alt News co-founder Pratik Sinha declined to comment.
This post A privacy panic flares in India after police pulled payment details from Razorpay
was original published at “https://www.wired.com/story/police-pull-indian-payments-data/”