In the backdrop of the landmark Supreme Court’s verdict that imposed restrictions on use of Aadhaar by private companies, the center has brought amendment to the Aadhaar Act to enhance powers of UIDAI and ensure stringent safeguards against any violation of norms.
The amendments brought are in sync with the SC’s recent order and also are in sync with the Srikrishna panel recommendations that asserted to provide UIDAI more autonomy in decision making and also empower it with powers of traditional regulators for enforcement actions.
- The bill allows the private sectors to regain access to the Aadhaar infrastructure so long as the individual person gives consent voluntarily. However, there is no any law which protects the data of person with the private sectors. Lack of monitoring and complicated process to reach the authority concern for the protection of data makes such provision more vulnerable.
- The collection of data by private entities will enable them of commercial exploitation of individual biometric and demographic information.
- However, the access of data by private players even with individual consent contravenes the right to privacy.
- The proposed legislative amendments virtually seek to impose Aadhaar as a prerequisite for the availing of certain basic services. For example, the amendments proposed state that service providers — telecom companies and banks, respectively — ought to identify their customers by one of four means: authentication under the Aadhaar Act; offline verification under the Aadhaar Act; use of passport; or the use of any other officially valid document that the government may notify. Given that only a peripheral portion of India’s population possess passports, Aadhaar is effectively made compulsory.
- Allowing private corporations to access and commercially exploit the Aadhaar architecture, as we have already seen, comes with disastrous consequences — the evidence of reports of fraud emanating out of seeding Aadhaar with different services is ever-growing.
- The bill also disregards the SC’s judgement. The Supreme Court declared the Section 33(2) as unconstitutional, which allowed an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India to direct disclosure of Aadhaar information in the “interest of national security”
- The Bill, merely seeks to substitute the words “Joint Secretary” with “Secretary” in Section 33(2), completely disregarding the Supreme Court’s order demanding inquiry.
- The bill no doubt allows data collection, but in the wake of misuse by private players or any individual, there is no effective mechanism to identify, monitor, and punish the entities. In case of privacy violation, the poor individual will face difficulties to approach the concerned authority as the investigating authority as per the amendment will be a joint secretary officer.
- However, effective monitoring and proper implementation will prove vital in its use especially in providing financial services to poor. Government as well as government agency should remain on its toes always while dealing with any of the cases of privacy. Also, the IT infrastructure need to be strengthened in order to protect the UIDAI data and hence privacy.