The Dark Side Of Aadhaar Card: Privacy Issues
The seemingly innocuous intent of the governing body of India to create a centralised database of Indian residents has repercussions which have continually been highlighted and denounced since the very inception of the project, by individuals and media likewise. But, it is hard to advance claims of privacy, autonomy and liberty in the context of large e-governance identity projects like Aadhaar: they earn one the labels of elitist, anti-progress and privacy fascist.
Five years after Aadhaar was launched and touted as panacea to access social services and subsidies, its users continue to be dogged by an array of problems ranging from technical glitches to procedural delays. And those who do not have an Aadhaar card find themselves quizzed by government authorities.
But the complications are not just limited to poor operation of the system. Before Aadhaar, the data of each individual was only in separate “archives” and it was nearly impossible to link a person’s information from one archive to that in another. The unique ID number has solved this predicament to get hold of personal data in more than one archive by the invasive government, a profit-minded entity, or a hostile group. To say that data is the raw material of the new economy will not be wrong.
People who would argue about the data collected is minimal should perceive that even inane pieces of data have value in combination. The relational quality of data is the key. Very few countries have such a provision for converging archives. In most countries where such projects were introduced, such as the United States and United Kingdom, citizens reacted proactively to the threats of intrusion into their democratic rights.
But the Attorney General would assert as he did on 11th August, 2015 before the Supreme Court that there is no privacy violation if the data is not shared. Even considering that the authorities act honorable and abstain from using biometric and demographic information other than for social benefit schemes, there are no guarantees whatsoever that each actor in the Aadhaar ecosystem can be stopped from so doing.
India has a secret surveillance project run by Centre of Development of Telematics that has recently been labeled as one of top three worst online spies. It has been going on since April 2013 without any parliamentary accountability, regulating law or information in public domain and also in violation of section 5 of Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. Now, to pose faith in a government as reticent as ours, is nothing but a laughable proposition.
But the muddle ingrained by Aadhaar on unsuspecting Indian population is far more. There have already been reports of biometric data collected in India being given to the National Security Agency in the U.S. In a scathing letter to then incoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Communist party of India argued that the United States has been using an information exchange agreement to obtain biometric data of Indian citizens. In accord, Edward Snowden revealed that U.S intelligence was indeed collecting biometric data from many countries including India. Apart from the security, this is a gross violation of the privacy of our people.
Privacy is not an elitist concern, nor a western idea. Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.The instilled inclination that casts anything shiny, new and digital as progress will have to change for India to be a healthy democracy.