Aadhaar Card Issues

[op-ed snap] All that data that Aadhaar captures

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

“The very foundation of Aadhaar must be reconsidered in the light of the privacy judgment.” Critically analyse?

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of Aadhaar

Mains level: Aadhaar V/S Right to privacy


News

Context

  1. After denying the right to privacy for years, the government welcomed the judgement
  2. CEO of the UIDAI, asserted, “The Aadhaar Act is based on the premise that privacy is a fundamental right and the judgement would not affect Aadhaar as the required safeguards were already in place.

Aaadhaar and Right to Privacy

  1. Aadhaar, in its current form, is a major threat to the fundamental right to privacy
  2. Common perception that the main privacy concern with Aadhaar is the confidentiality of the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR). This is misleading for two reasons.
    • One is that the CIDR is not supposed to be inaccessible.
    • On the contrary, the Aadhaar Act 2016 puts in place a framework for sharing most of the CIDR information.
  3. It collects  biometric information, identity information and personal information.
  4. The first two are formally defined in the Aadhaar Act, and protected to some extent. The biggest threat to privacy, relates to the third type of information.
  5. In the Aadhaar Act, biometric information essentially refers to photograph, fingerprints and iris scan, though it may also extend to “other biological attributes of an individual” specified by the UIDAI.
  6. The term “core biometric information” basically means biometric information minus photograph, but it can be modified once again at the discretion of the UIDAI.
  7. One concern is the confidentiality of personal information an individual may not wish to be public or accessible to others. The Aadhaar Act puts in place some safeguards in this respect, but they are restricted to biometric and identity information.

Sharing identity details

  1. The strongest safeguards in the Act relate to core biometric information.
  2. That part of the CIDR, is supposed to be inaccessible except for the purpose of biometric authentication.
  3. There is a view that, in practice, the biometric database is likely to be hacked sooner or later.
  4. Aadhaar Act puts in place a framework to share it with “requesting entities”. The core of this framework lies in Section 8 of the Act, which deals with authentication
  5. Aadhaar Act includes a blanket exemption from the safeguards applicable to biometric and identity information on “national security” grounds.
  6. This effectively makes identity information accessible to the government without major restrictions.

Mining personal information

  1. Aadhaar is a tool of unprecedented power for mining and collating personal information.
  2. For example, suppose Aadhaar number becomes mandatory for buying a railway ticket. With computerised railway counters, government will have all the details of your railway journeys, from birth onwards. The government can do exactly what it likes with this personal information
  3. By the same reasoning, if Aadhaar is made mandatory for SIM cards, the government will have access to your lifetime call records, and it will also be able to link your call records with your travel records.
  4. Nothing in the Aadhaar Act prevents the government from using Aadhaar to link different databases, or from extracting personal information from these databases.
  5. Indeed, many State governments under the State Resident Data Hub (SRDH) project, which “integrates all the departmental databases and links them with Aadhaar number”
  6. Some of the private agencies do have access to a fair amount of personal information from their own databases.
    • Reliance Jio is in possession of identity information for more than 100 million Indians, harvested from the CIDR when they authenticate themselves to buy a Jio SIM card.

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