The Election Commission dropped plans on Thursday to partner Google Inc on a project to ease voter access to information, after a backlash against the move from campaigners who fear Google and the U.S. government could use it for spying. India, the world’s largest democracy, will go to the polls in a general election due by May. Google (GOOG.O), the world’s No.1 search engine, had pitched a project to the Election Commission to create a simpler and faster search tool for voters to check whether they were registered correctly or not. But the plan was opposed by the Indian Infosec Consortium, a government and private sector-backed alliance of cyber security experts, who feared Google would collaborate with “American agencies” for espionage purposes. The Election Commission did not officially give a reason for dropping the plan. But an official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters that Google’s proposal was not a major improvement on its existing website, and that Google’s involvement had drawn criticism in India.
U.S. President Barack Obama consulted intelligence officials on Wednesday on ways to rein in U.S. surveillance practices after damaging disclosures from former spy contractor Edward Snowden.
Espionage fears come at a particularly sensitive time for India-U.S. relations, after a spat broke out over the arrest and strip search of an Indian diplomat in New York last month.
“Google is committed to help make public information on the web easily accessible to internet users across the country,” Google said in a statement.
“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,” it added.