Data leaks and government denials: CoWIN is front-page news across English newspapers

The government’s claim is that the database hadn’t been ‘breached directly’.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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It’s only Tuesday and the biggest news of the week is the CoWIN data breach, where the private information of lakhs of Indians registered on the app was allegedly leaked to private players. A Telegram bot revealed details of individuals on entering their phone number or Aadhaar card details.

Meanwhile, the government claimed the database hadn’t been “breached directly”.

The story was first broken by Malayalam news portal Fourth News and subsequently picked up by multiple media houses.

Did leading English newspapers carry the story this morning?

It was the Hindu’s lead story in Chennai with the headline “CoWIN vaccination data out, govt denies breach”. The story included an infographic on the “adequate safeguards” claimed by the government.

“However, what is more worrying is that fact that CoWIN, which serves the function of registration, appointment scheduling, identity verification, vaccination and certification of each vaccinated member, has also been integrated into the Aarogya Setu and Umang apps,” the report said. 

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The government denial made it to page 1 of the Indian Express in Delhi, though not as the top story. The report quoted minister of state for IT and electronics, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, as saying the data being accessed was from a “threat actor database which seems to have been populated with previously stolen data stolen in the past”.

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Hindustan Times had the story on its flap with the headline “CoWIN vaccine database in the eye of a leak storm”. It quoted Congress leader Jairam Ramesh as asking “what immediate steps” the Modi government would take to secure the data, and noted the “urgent need for a data protection bill”.

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The story was only a snippet on page 1 of the Times of India in Delhi, headlined with the government’s assertion that CoWIN is safe. A longer story on page 12 had the usual quotes from Chandrasekhar and opposition parties.

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Finally the Telegraph in Kolkata, which led with CoWIN on page 1.

“The Narendra Modi government on Monday ran into allegations that it had either remained oblivious to or not publicly disclosed a security breach of its Covid-19 vaccination database through which information on vaccine recipients was stolen in the past and made available on a public messaging platform,” the report said. 

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With issues of data and privacy back in the spotlight, we shouldn’t forget that a 2023 report told us everything we need to know on what Indians think of surveillance and privacy. Gujarat backs it, Punjab hates it, and some don’t even know there’s a right to privacy. Read all about it here.

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article imageModi government’s Covid response is like its CoWin metrics — mostly useless

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