Furor erupts around Indian PM Modi's app over alleged data sharing

FILE PHOTO: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks with the media inside the parliament premises on the first day of the budget session, in New Delhi, India, January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File photo

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Allegations that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's official mobile application https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.narendramodiapp&hl=en was sending personal user data to a third party without their consent caused a furor on social media in India and drew criticism from the leader of the main opposition party on Sunday.

Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party denied https://twitter.com/BJP4India/status/977811651989680128 the allegations and said the data was being used only for analytics to offer all users the "most contextual content".

A security researcher, who has previously highlighted some vulnerabilities in India's national identity card project and who tweets under the pseudonym Elliot Alderson, posted https://twitter.com/fs0c131y/status/977267255309463554 a series of tweets on Saturday stating the app was sending personal user data to a third-party domain that was traced to an American company.

The tweets, which come at a time of heightened sensitivity around the alleged misuse of personal data amid the unfolding Facebook-Cambridge Analytica controversy https://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-cambridge-analytica-apology/facebooks-zuckerberg-says-sorry-to-britons-with-newspaper-apology-ads-idUSKBN1H10AF, triggered a stir in India on social media.

"Hi! My name is Narendra Modi. I am India's Prime Minister. When you sign up for my official App, I give all your data to my friends in American companies," wrote https://twitter.com/RahulGandhi/status/977778259810226177 opposition Congress Party Chief Rahul Gandhi in a Twitter message on Sunday.

The BJP quickly responded on Twitter, saying Gandhi was trying to divert attention. The BJP has accused the Congress of engaging Cambridge Analytica in India, a charge the opposition party has denied.

Alderson, who initially pointed out that the Narendra Modi app was sharing data with a third party without the consent of users, earlier on Sunday posted a new tweet saying the app had "quietly" updated https://twitter.com/fs0c131y/status/977847395743617024 its privacy policy after his previous tweets.

Reuters could not independently verify Alderson's claim.

Prime Minister Modi has not commented on the issue.

BJP said the app - which has seen about 5 million downloads on the Google Android Play Store - allows users access even in a guest mode that does not require them to grant any permissions.

"The permissions required are all ... cause-specific," the BJP tweeted.

(Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Euan Rocha and David Evans)