Operation 136 Part 2: Did Paytm break Google Play’s Privacy Policy? Company could face serious consequences

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In the wake of Operation 136 expose that caught at least two Paytm executives admit on tape that they had shared personal data of users at the behest of the Prime Minister’s Office in India, serious questions have arisen about the digital wallet company having breached Google Play’s privacy policy.

Paytm

Under its ‘Developer Policy Center,’ Google makes it absolutely clear that it is ‘committed to protecting user privacy and providing a safe and secure environment for our users.’ It also goes on to warn that ‘Apps that are deceptive, malicious, or intended to abuse or misuse any network, device, or personal data are strictly prohibited.’

Google Play’s privacy policy further states that if the mobile app (Paytm in this question) ‘handles financial or payment information,’ then ‘it must never publicly disclose any personal or sensitive user data related to financial or payment activities or any government identification numbers.’

In a rush to prove how close they are both to the government and to the RSS, Paytm’s senior executive Ajay Shekhar Sharma had made the ultimate disclosure while speaking to Cobrapost’s undercover reporter, “Jab J&K mein band huye the na pathar … toh humari personally PMO se phone aya tha kaha gaya tha ki data de do ho sakta hai ki Paytm user hon (When the stone-pelting stopped there in J&K, I personally got a phone call from the PMO. They told us to give them data saying maybe some of the stone-pelters are Paytm users. Do you understand)?”

This had caused angry reactions from across the country with thousands of users uninstalling the Paytm mobile app. Even though Paytm was quick to issue a clarification on Twitter denying the claims made by its senior executives, it felt that the response on the social media platform was not adequate to control the damage that Operation 136 by Cobrapost had done. It, therefore, felt the need to post a full page clarification on its website. The clarification read;

“There is a video going around on social media and it falsely claims that we shared some data with 3rd parties. Nothing can be further from the truth.

We never share your data with anyone: any company/ any government or any country. At Paytm, your data is yours. Not ours, or of a third party, or of the government.

Our policy allows ONLY legally compliant data requests from the law of the land to get access to data for necessary investigations.

To further clarify, in the past, we have neither received requests nor shared any data without a legally compliant request from a bonafide agency and through proper process and channels. You can be sure that no data is shared with anyone whom you would not have given us permission to share it with. This is the holy grail of trust between us.

Any person claiming otherwise is not aware of the policy and is not authorised to speak on behalf of the company. We value our relationship of trust and thank you for your continued support.”

Many experts and commentators had mocked the clarification issued by Paytm saying that why it hadn’t sacked its two senior executives if they made a false declaration on secret camera.

If found guilty of breaking Google Play’s privacy policy, Paytm could face devastating consequences as its App will risk getting removed from the platform and invite hefty penalty or both.

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