The government is rapidly working on its plan to make Aadhaar mandatory for Indian citizens. However, Aadhaar touches upon the sensitive matter of right to privacy, delving on the question whether it’s a fundamental right or a right offered by common law.
The Supreme Court recently observed that right to privacy is not absolute, given the fact that privacy is embedded in all processes of human life and liberty. The case was heard by a nine-judge bench led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) JS Khehar. The rest of the bench included Justices J Chelameswar, SA Bobde, RK Agarwal, Rohinton Fali Nariman, Abhay Manohar Sapre, DY Chandrachud, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and S Abdul Nazeer. This will be a historic decision passed by the country’s Supreme Court.
The decision will bring clarify if government can pursue its current course of making Aadhaar mandatory for almost everything. Aadhaar is already mandatory for a plethora of activities, such as filing tax returns, operating bank accounts, vehicle registrations (in certain states) and, of course, availing government schemes.
We live in a data-driven world today, where information, both personal and public is mostly in digital formats. Government’s decision to undercut right to privacy is already received a lot of angst. After all, we must have the choice to protect and secure our personal information from whosoever. Moreover, The Aadhar process shall capture significant amount of our personal data, which is not really a favorable move on the government’s part.
Biometrics fail to address the Data Privacy issue
As discussed earlier, through Aadhaar registration, a citizen offers his biometric data, address, and a brief personal profile to the government. However, there always lies a fear about this data being misutilized. As a result, pleas are being filed in the court to restrict the use of Aadhaar as a voluntary option. It is important for a country to establish a stronger framework that protects the citizens from privacy invasions. Moreover, there are several reports which point out to leakage Aadhaar data.
Aadhar’s loft platform doesn’t necessary imply that the biometric data collected from citizens is safe. There is always a possibility of encountering fraudulence; a person’s biometric data could be replaced, for instance. Moreover, fraudulents can easily fake the biometric authentication. Thus, leveraging the use of biometrics to capture personal data of citizens could turn into a risky affair.
Data protection in Digital Age
We live in an extremely digitally connected world today, where data plays an integral part. This makes data protection a serious concern for the day. Personal data protection issues are being addressed by a mix of measures administered by a number of different bodies.
However, privacy and protection of personal information are two primary concerns for citizens creating and consuming information in the rapidly growing digital landscape. Increasing amounts of personal information are collected, stored, and shared online.
Effective protection of personal data in the digital economy can only be achieved through a mix of regulatory and non-regulatory measures, which are tailored to the specific contexts in which privacy concerns arise. In other words, there lies an absolute need for a coherent regulatory framework.
As discussed earlier, use of biometric authentication as a means of identity verification opens doors to cases of identity theft.
The UIDAI’s defense mechanism takes three aspects into consideration:
- The database is sufficiently encrypted and protected against breaches
- Biometric collection at the authentication end is encrypted (either in software or in hardware)
- There are penal provisions in the Aadhaar Act to deter any unauthorised access.
What must be kept in mind?
Aadhar is undoubtedly a revolutionary step for the country. Moreover, it is fundamental to the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) programme conceptualized and executed by two successive governments. The Aadhar scheme has seen a lot of investments pour in, since its very beginning, and it has also helped in plugging the subsidy leakages that existed before.
Basically speaking, the Aadhaar scheme is critical for the new economic structure. However, the government must convince the apex court and the general public that every concerns on data privacy issues are addressed to take the Aadhaar programme ahead. The Aadhaar scheme is critical for the new economic. The government must make legislations that addresses concerns on data privacy laws.
From healthcare to finance, we live in a world which is powered by data-driven systems. With technological advances, an increasing number of healthcare and financial organizations are collecting both your personal and public data. Exposure of such data could create situations of high risk for you.
And now, the government plans to dispose the right to privacy for Indian citizens, which means we might have to disclose personal information to these bodies. Essentially, the right to privacy and individual freedom are democracy's basic commitments to its stakeholders. Besides, it’s the job of the elected government of the day to fulfill that promise.
Looks like Supreme Court is headstrong about its decision to make data privacy laws, and thus help Aadhaar emerge as a winner in the new economic structure. However, the government has to soon devise a more concrete and proactive plan which address the need for data security in the digital age, besides uplifting citizens’ right to privacy.
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With a background in Engineering, Amit has assumed the mantle of content analyst at Analytics India Magazine. An audiophile most of the times, with a soul consumed by wanderlust, he strives ahead in the disruptive technology space. In other life, he would invest his time into comics, football, and movies.