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Moneylife » Life » Public Interest » PFC publishes investor data on the web, raising privacy concerns

PFC publishes investor data on the web, raising privacy concerns

Moneylife Digital Team | 22/11/2011 03:15 PM | 

PFC has published names, complete addresses, telephone or mobile numbers and email IDs of around 1.2 lakh individuals, which raises several questions of privacy and investor protection

In yet another instance that proves the government and its units are insensitive to issues of transparency and privacy, Power Finance Corp (PFC) has published complete data of its investors on the web. This too when, concerns are being raised about the government's unique identification (UID) program that not only collects detailed information, but also takes biometric data like iris and finger scans. This UID data is accessible for anyone who is associated with the UID Authority of India (UIDAI) as registrar.

In a stunning case of placing private data out in the public domain PFC, which collected money from investors for its infrastructure bonds, has published names, addresses, telephone or mobile numbers and email IDs of around 1.2 lakh individuals. The revelation of this data has angered several investors. "I was not aware of my personal data being uploaded on the website. This is a clear violation of my privacy," says a Mumbai-based investor.

This is surprising, especially when last year Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee rejected a proposal from National Intelligence Grid (NatGrid) to access details of all bank accounts. Mr Mukherjee, in a hand written note, had warned that intrusion into the privacy of bank depositors will discredit the banking system and people will start using other modes for securing their funds.

However, either PFC is not aware of the Finance Minister’s opinion or does not understand the difference between transparency in its operations and violating personal privacy.

Currently, the UIDAI is under heavy criticism on privacy issues, use of biometrics and the incentives being paid for enrolling more residents. Many voices have been raised against the forceful implementation of the UID project, with most objections focused on concerns over privacy. Advocate and activist Kamayani Bali Mahabal, who started petitioning Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh against UID scheme or Aadhaar, said, "Privacy law is still being made, and until it is in place, the UIDAI should not be doing what it is, and it certainly cannot be allowed to share information as it proposes to do under the 'information consent' clause in its form."

Although, the Constitution does not explicitly specify privacy rights, the Supreme Court in a landmark judgement (Unni Krishnan, J.P & Ors. Etc., versus State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors,) on 4 February 1993, had ruled that "This Court has held that several un-enumerated rights fall within Article (21) since personal liberty is of widest amplitude."

We sent a mail to PFC officials, who assured us that the mail has been forwarded to concerned department and they will act upon the issue at the earliest.


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8 Comments
Rajiv

Rajiv 3 years ago

Can someone give the URL where this data exists ?

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R Nandy

R Nandy 3 years ago

Wonderful! The PFC data base is almost perfect. It only doesn't have the date of birth and marital status
of the Bond Holders. Those can easily be acquired by calling the Bond Holder and telling them that you are calling from PFC and gain their confidence by stating their PAN number. And, bingo you have the Date of birth. Please don't blame me for writing this,any identity thief knows this. :)

UID(Aadhar) is another wonderful project which is going on. It will institutionalize identity theft in India. Last week I was in the HAL II post office in Bangalore. The primitive way the enrollment was being handled with huge stacks of address/id proofs collected is baffling. No doubt a lot of them will end up being used in opening of new bank accounts to be used as money mules.

@Indira
PFC will not do anything unless you cause them a lot of pain either by lodging a FIR against the head or a PIL. And, Arora does have a point

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indira jain

indira jain 3 years ago

The number of comments to this post so far show the level of interest in privacy as an issue :-) 2 from arora , on from moneylife!

Find it hard to agree with the savage nastiness of Arora. As a reader, I am happy Moneylife has named names.
Also, as a tech person, I think it would take a few seconds for PFC's webmaster to disable the link. So why should it be Moneylife's responsibility not to name names?
Maybe Arora is from PFC and hence the irrational anger??
Glad she has rested her case and hopefully will keep it that way!
lage raho moneylife

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Hemant Bhatia

Hemant Bhatia 3 years ago in reply to indira jain

I agree with Arora & it is childish to say that if you disagree with ML you are from PFC. I also rest my case & you be glad again.

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Alisha Arora

Alisha Arora 3 years ago

ML should have reported this matter responsibly, citing "a major sectoral finance company has violated shareholder privacy", instead of revealing the exact name of the company. Such kind of reportage, leads to readers and surfers, to visit the website, on your prompting.

PFC has erred greatly but ML has multiplied the damage insensibly.

Poor reporting standards at ML; sensationalism overtaking pragmatism.

Web editorial maturity was conspicuous by its absence, in this case.

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MLD

MLD 3 years ago in reply to Alisha Arora

We strongly disagree. without a name the report would have been meaningless and would have seen no action at all for the next few years!!!
As a responsible magazine, we called the PRO and urged him to respond. We hoped they would disable the link before we went public with the story. We told them we are doing public. If the company didn't wake up even then, you cannot hold us accountable.
If you want expemplary action, then dont tell us not to expose wrongdoing, instead file a complaint and ensure exemplary punishment for PFC so that it jolts others.

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Alisha Arora

Alisha Arora 3 years ago in reply to MLD

Extent of damage was amplified by irresponsible reporting, when the objective was to protect the privacy of the undermined investors, and not to induce further damage.

Poor logic furnished with defiant denial of responsibility towards privacy of those affected juxtaposed with urge to do expose on errant company!

Public interest is undermined by corporate carelessness enlarged by journalistic blunder.

Whenever internet credit card data is exposed, the reputed international news reporting is done not by propagating the data leakage but just the news of it after ensuring blocking the leakage, with embargo till it is secured.

Jumping the gun might be for journalistic fun devoid of public interest principles !

Rest my case, no more posts to drive home the point, if you are determined to miss it :-(

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Rambabu Shastri

Rambabu Shastri 3 years ago

Data privacy is only the privilege of the foreign national whose data gets processed by BPOs. The BPOs and Nasscomm have set up a DSCI organization that ensures they have good standards and practices to protect data. However, these bodies or standards have little or no focus on the data of Indian citizens. After all, there are so many of us, that a leakage of information of about a lakh or so individuals, does not make any difference on percentages of the whole population. The leakage is not just the PFC, but also the PCMC, MSEDL MTNL and other bodies who have taken to e-commerce and web-facing applications without any standards, directions or skills on information security. The situation will take ages to remediate in India and till then, the leakage of about 1 lakh customers information by the PFC is miniscule and too trivial to be of any consequence. The UIDAI is also being scuttled as there are ulterior political motives to ensure it does not happen.

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