Privacy breach at metro station by BMTC

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An expert said that there is no need to ask for personal details for BMTC’s survey.

Namma Metro riders were left confused as BMTC officials were collecting their personal details outside metro station. The officials said that the details were being collected for the purpose of deploying electronic buses.   “My Name, phone number, entry and exit station details were collected on pen and paper while exiting the Baiyapanahalli metro station,” said Lakshmi, a metro rider.  “It was very sudden and it didn’t happen at Kengeri station where I entered from,” she added. The officials mentioned that it was for a survey but she wasn’t clear on the purpose. “I didn’t want to give my phone number but they asked so I gave,” she added.

Some passengers felt obligated to share their personal details. “Government officials were asking so I had to give my phone number,” said another passenger who was asked for details while entering the same metro station.

BMTC plans on surveying of the number of people that get off at every metro station in the city to figure out which station has more people. Once they figure this out, more e-buses will be deployed in these areas to manage the capacity, said BMTC officials at the metro station. 

The Karnataka Government in October 2021, decided to replace all the scrapped buses with e-buses. They planned on acquiring 1,500 e-buses in the next three years to run in the city. Around 90 buses were to be added to the BMTC under the Smart City project from November 2021.

However, there is a lack of clarity about the purpose of the survey that is being conducted.  “Details are being collected just for marketing purposes,” said Raviprakash, from Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL).   “I am not aware of such a survey taking place,” said Rajesh, from BMTC. 

Privacy and surveillance experts question the intention behind the process. “For every data that is collected, it should be directly proportionate to the purpose that it is intended for,” said Shweta Reddy, a privacy researcher. There is no need to collect names and phone numbers if they want to know how many people are present at stations, only destination details are enough, she added.

Additionally, when countries draft data protection legislations these days, they try to minimise the risk of data leaks by avoiding collecting names. While India doesn’t have such legislation, this should be done here too, she said. “Collection of data on pen and paper, in this case, gives no protection to the data,” she added.