Railways floats tender for consultant to monetise customer data, may withdraw it over privacy concerns

Railways tender for customer data monetization consultant, may pull it over privacy concerns

The Railways has floated a tender to hire a consultant to monetize passenger and freight customer data to generate revenue of up to Rs 1,000 crore, but sources said it may be withdrawn due to concerns over privacy issues.

While many on social media, including advocacy groups, raised concerns about the privacy breach, government sources clarified that the consultant would advise the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) on steps to improve its existing business and plan monetization strategies. future opportunities.

While the railways has not officially commented on the tender, highly placed sources said it will be withdrawn “in view of the fact that the draft data protection law has not been finalised”.

According to the tender documents, the data for the study will include information captured by the carrier’s various public applications such as “name, age, mobile number, gender, address, email ID, class of travel, mode of payment, login or password” and other details.

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

The document also said that once completed, details of the applications and the data collected therein would be provided to the consultant to conduct the study on “Monetization of Digital Data of Indian Railways”.

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

The document titled “Scope of work for Project A: To study the monetization of Indian Railways (IR) digital data” says the consultant will also be given access to digital data systems that generate behavioral data such as passenger flow, journey class, frequency journeys, travel time, booking time, age group and gender, payment method, number of destinations and booking modes.

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

“IRCTC envisages a revenue generation potential of Rs 1,000 crore through monetization of its digital assets. IRCTC wishes to engage a consulting firm to assist in the identification, design and development and implementation of data monetization opportunities,” the company said.

While the railways is yet to respond officially, sources close to the development said that IRCTC “does not sell its data and has no intention of doing so”. They said the consultant is being hired to advise IRCTC on steps to improve its existing business and plan strategies to monetize future ventures. It will also focus on how IRCTC could embrace new business opportunities.

“IRCTC will also develop new businesses on its own platform and will need help from market leaders. IRCTC does not store any financial data of its customers at its end as at the time of online payment for its various services, the check is passed to the respective payment gateway or bank for payment,” sources said.

The document also states that the consultant will study various laws or statutes, including the IT Act 2000 and its amendments, user privacy laws including the General Data Protection Regulation and the current “Personal Data Protection Act 2018 ”, and accordingly design business models for monetizing digital assets.

The consultant would also prepare a plan for monetization of the digital data collected in various customer and vendor-facing applications that include zonal railways, divisions and other units like CRIS, and PSUs like IRCTC, Railtel, etc.

Tasks listed for the appointed consultant include segregation of monetizable datasets, identification of market potential internationally and preparation of a plan for monetization of digital data.
The Internet Freedom Foundation, a Delhi-based NGO advocating for digital rights and freedoms, raised concerns about the tender process and outlined its pitfalls in a series of tweets.

“Hey train passengers, your data will soon be monetized by the government. And that too in the absence of data protection legislation! …The goal of profit maximization will result in greater incentives for data collection, violating the principles of data minimization and purpose limitation. Past experiences with the misuse of the Vahan database heighten concerns about mass surveillance and security risks,” he said.

“IRCTC, a government-controlled monopoly, must not favor perverse commercial interests over the rights and interests of citizens. And with the recent withdrawal of the Privacy Act 2021, such monetization becomes even more worrisome,” the NGO added.

Sanjit
Sanjit

I am Sanjit Gupta. I have completed my BMS then MMS both in marketing. I even did a diploma in computer software and Digital Marketing.

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