Did the NSA Scandal Cause Google to Lose Out on Its India Deal?


Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has lost the opportunity for a contract with the Indian government that would provide Indian citizens with its search engine at no cost for the purpose of offering voter services during the 2014 general elections in the country. Google made a presentation to the Election Commission of India about the potential tie-up on Tuesday.

In a statement seen by The Wall Street Journal, Google said, “It is unfortunate that our discussion with the Election Commission of India to change the way users access their electoral information that is publicly available, through an online voter look up tool, were not fruitful.”

The voter facilitation initiatives proposed by Google included free online voter registration, access to polling locations, and data on voter EPIC card numbers, according to a report from The Times of India. Per the paper, politicians from several parties called such a tie-up into question based on security concerns in the light of the U.S. National Security Agency scandal this summer.

The paper cited several angry letters from party leaders over the fact that the election commission agreed to have a meeting with Google at all, saying that all parties should have been consulted before such discussions began. “It does raise some security concerns,” Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said to the Times.

After the NSA scandal broke this summer, foreign countries using U.S.-based technology were outraged to discover that they were being monitored by Washington. Since then, it’s been estimated that the scandal could cost the U.S. tech industry billions of dollars in foreign business as the governments of other countries urge their domestic businesses to avoid using the technology of any company with physical ties to the United States.

It’s likely these are the security concerns that worried Indian officials too much to pursue the contract with Google. The Journal noted that Google has similar tie-ups with the governments of Mexico, the Philippines, Egypt, and Kenya.

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