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Is IRCTC Going To Sell User Data? Advocacy Groups Cry Foul Over Tender To Monitise Digital Data

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website is one of the most ones in India and is ranked among the top 100 in the country.

It is used by millions to book trains, flights, buses, hotel rooms and more. It is also a treasure trove of personal data of users.

IRCTC Website
BCCL

But a new tender floated by the IRCTC has raised some serious concerns over data privacy.

The IRCTC has floated a tender to hire a consultant to monetise its passenger and freight customer data with the aim to generate revenue up to Rs 1,000 crore.

What the IRCTC tender says

According to the tender document, the data to be studied will include information captured by the transporter’s various public facing applications such as “name, age, mobile number, gender, address, e-mail ID, class of journey, payment mode, login or password” and other details.

Railway Station
BCCL

The IRCTC has more than 10 crore users, of which 7.5 crore are active users.

The document also stated that the consultant, once finalised, will be provided the details of applications and the data collected thereon for conducting the study for ‘Monetization of Digital Data of Indian Railways’.

The consultant shall study the data of passenger, freight and parcel businesses of the Indian Railways such as PRS, NGeT, NTES, UTS, Rail Madad, FOIS, TMS, e-CRM, and PMS, as well as vendor-related data from applications like IREPS, VMS and IPAS.

Railway Station
BCCL

The document titled ‘The Scope of Work for Project A: For study of Monetization of Digital Data of Indian Railways(IR)’ said the consultant would also be provided access to the digital data systems which generate behavioural data such as flow of passengers, class of journey, frequency of journey, travel time, booking time, age group and gender, payment mode, number of destinations and booking modes.

The objective of the exercise, it said, is for the IRCTC to leverage its data assets and market position to drive strong growth in revenues. This can be achieved by improving customer experience, expanding the portfolio of products being offered to the customers and/or developing new business lines and partnerships, the document stated.

new delhi railway station
BCCL

“IRCTC envisages a revenue generation potential of Rs 1,000 Cr through Monetization of its Digital Assets. IRCTC wishes to engage a consulting firm to help in identification, design, and development and roll-out of data monetization opportunities,” it said.

Allegations of selling user data

However, internet advocacy groups have alleged that the IRCTC is planning to sell user data, and also pointed out that this was not the first time such an idea was put forward by the Railway Ministry.

IRCTC’s clarifation

Following the controversy, A senior official of IRCTC clarifies that the company does not sell its data and there is no intention to do such things and media reports regarding this are totally fictitious.

The official also said that consultants are being hired to improve existing businesses. The consultant will also advise on new business lines which can be adopted by IRCTC and Indian Railways in near future.

A number of businesses like Rail Ticketing, Retiring room booking, Hotel booking, air ticketing, Bus booking, catering service etc. have been developed by IRCTC on its own platform. In the same way, a new business will also be developed by IRCTC on its own platform taking assistance or guidance from market leaders, and clarified by the higher authority of the company.

In addition to the clarification official says, IRCTC does not store any financial data of its customers on its system server, as at the time of online payment for its various services, control is passed on to the respective Payment Gateway or bank for the payment.

Train
BCCL

‘For new businesses’

The official also clarified that as a commercial entity, the company continuously explores opportunities in new business areas. To carry out these activities in a more professional manner and also to safeguard the commercial interests of its investors, a tender has been floated by IRCTC to appoint a consultant of international repute.

The idea behind this is to provide better assistance and guidance to IRCTC and Indian Railways for developing monetization strategies through data analysis. The consultant will guide the company on the monetization of activities, new businesses in line with the travel and associated needs of its customers and advise on monetization value of existing Digital Resources, using anonymous data and observing various Acts and laws including IT Act 2000 and its amendments, User data privacy laws including GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

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