IRCTC plans to sell passenger database to private and government companies to raise Rs 1,000 crore, report says

New Delhi: Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), the online ticket booking arm of Indian Railways, is exploring options to monetize its bank of personal traveler data while doing business with private and government companies.

Quoting an anonymous IRCTC official, Trade standard reported that the public sector entity has a huge passenger database as it is the only digital train ticketing platform in the country.

IRCTC, which has enlisted the services of a consultant to help with the monetization process, plans to raise Rs 1,000 crore through this proposed move. The company has launched the tender document for the hiring of the consultant, and it considers several sectors, such as hospitality, energy, health and infrastructure, as potential customers for passenger data .

Meanwhile, in a clarification to exchanges on Friday August 19, the IRCTC said it had issued tenders for the appointment of a digital data monetization consultant, adding that no discussion had taken place. taken place so far for the appointment of the consultant.

“As a business entity, the company is exploring business opportunities in new areas. Like other commercial tenders, this tender was also issued simply to appoint a consultant. The consultant will guide IRCTC and Indian Railways on monetization activities and advise on the value of monetizing digital assets in compliance with various laws or statutes including the Information Technology Act 2000 and its amendments, user data privacy laws, including GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and India’s current Personal Data Protection Bill 2018,” the IRCTC said in a regulatory filing .

Also, being a government-owned company, it is common to call for tenders, he added.

The monetization movement is still in the initial stages, but the management of the railways is clearly pushing to go ahead with this exercise as the Indian Railways are struggling to monetize their physical assets. The company may try to generate additional revenue through its digital assets and database to meet its ambitious monetization goal for the fiscal year, the financial daily said, citing sources.

The publication quotes Amol Kulkarni, director (research) at CUTS International, as saying that sharing passenger data creates the risk of violating consumer rights.

“Data must be aggregated, anonymized and protected. IRCTC may share personal data with different service providers without anonymizing it. There is a greater risk of breach, breach of privacy and misuse of data if this happens…”, according to Kulkarni.

Meanwhile, in a series of tweets, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) – India’s digital rights group – said: “The goal of maximizing profits will result in greater incentives for data collection , in violation of the principles of data minimization and purpose limitation. Past experiences of misuse of the Vahan database amplify fears of mass surveillance and security risks.