Rival India leaders accused of data breaches in social media row

New Delhi (AFP) –


India's ruling and main opposition parties on Monday accused each other of using social media dirty tricks to mine and share followers' personal data.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress party of Rahul Gandhi have seized upon the data breach storm surrounding Facebook and other media to score political points against one another.

Gandhi accused Modi of using his official app "to build a personal database ... on millions of Indians".

"He's the Big Boss who likes to spy on Indians," Gandhi tweeted, referring to India's version of the "Big Brother" TV show.

But the Congress president did not comment on allegations that his own party had taken down a membership website and mobile app because of security flaws and allegations that it too was sharing people's personal data.

The row erupted this weekend after a French security researcher, who tweets as Elliot Alderson, flagged flaws with Modi's personal app.

Modi is the most popular politician on Indian social media. His app has been downloaded more than five million times, and his Twitter account has 41.4 million followers.

Alderson alleged that whenever a user created a profile on Modi's Android app, it shared their personal data without their consent.

"The issue with this App is that they send the personal data of their user to a third party company without their consent," Alderson told AFP in Twitter messages.

Congress and the BJP seized upon Alderson's allegations to attack each other.

In response to Gandhi's attack on the Modi app, the head of BJP's IT department turned fire on the Congress party's former mobile platform.

"Congress deleted its own App from the App store after they were called out. What is the Congress party hiding," said Amit Malviya on Twitter.

Congress denied the BJP charge, saying that its membership site had been "defunct for a while now."

Both parties last week exchanged charges of links with Cambridge Analytica, the firm accused of misusing information on millions of Facebook followers.

The row is expected to turn uglier with India heading into an election campaign year.