Airtel denies breaching customer privacy; blogosphere unconvinced

Airtel denies breaching customer privacy; blogosphere unconvinced

10 JUN 2015

India’s largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel has vigorously denied violating customer privacy by adding code that serves ads and tracks usage, claiming that the suspected code is used to help customers keep track of their data usage and is standard practice.

The controversy began after a Bangalore-based blogger accused Airtel on Tuesday of adding Javascript code into 3G users’ browsers when they visit a webpage. The code reportedly was programmed to load ads and allow the operator to track surfing history.

In statement, which was posted on Twitter, Airtel said one of its network vendor partners piloted the solution through a third party to help customers understand their data consumption levels in terms of volume of data used.

“As a responsible corporate, we have the highest regard for customer privacy and we follow a policy of zero tolerance with regard to the confidentiality of customer data,” it said.

But the controversy didn’t end there. After the blogger, Thejesh GN, posted screenshots of the suspicious code on GitHub, he received a “cease and desist” order from mobile internet optimisation firm Flash Networks, the Economic Times reported.

The order demanded that he remove anything related to JavaScript from GitHub, stating the blogger was violating its copyright over the script. Israel-based Flash Networks’ customers include Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone and Orange.

Airtel again said in a statement: “We are also surprised at the cease & desist notice served by Flash Networks to Thejesh GN, and categorically state that we have no relation, whatsoever, with the notice.”

But those commenting on social media weren’t convinced. One Tweeted on @airtelnews that “your partner/3rd party used your network or you willingly tampered/intercepted customer data”, while another was more blunt, stating “you were caught with pants down & this explanation doesn’t hold water”.


Joseph Waring

Joseph Waring joins Mobile World Live as the Asia editor for its new Asia channel. Before joining the GSMA, Joseph was group editor for Telecom Asia for more than ten years. In addition to writing features, news and blogs, he...

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