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March 11, 2016, the NDA-led Government of India passed the Aadhaar Act, 2016 as a money bill in Lok Sabha to dodge audit and analysis by the Rajya Sabha, one of the very few places left in the country where the UPA has a majority. Despite the original objective of enclosing the use of Aadhaar data only for government services, the private limited companies have clearance to access the database to authenticate and verify the customers before providing them services, mainly Reliance Jio and it’s parent company, Reliance Industries using the scheme under the cover of eKYC and as a move towards ‘Digital India’.
The Supreme Court of India ruled the enrollment to the Aadhaar scheme as “purely voluntary”, which cannot be made mandatory until the court has decided on it, which it hasn’t till date.
But still, the Union Government brought in amendments to the Finance Bill 2017 at the eleventh hour, making Aadhaar imperative for filing taxes. Failure to do so can also result in the government quashing the user’s permanent account number (PAN). It’s worth noting that the Aadhaar fails to guarantee privacy, and allows for mass surveillance of citizens under the guard of ‘national security’, a term that the Supreme Court hasn’t been able to define under the law or in general, and under the Aadhaar act, only UIDAI has the authority to file a criminal complaint about theft of biometric data, hence, ordinary citizens can’t even seek help from court under the act in case they sense leak of personal information.
It has also been noted that the move to make Aadhaar Card mandatory for filing taxes is just another layer of identification since PAN cards are still required. If the idea behind Aadhaar was to give everyone an ID, why has it been forced on people who already have an ID for filing taxes? For a fact, Indian citizens have varying information of themselves registered for different platforms, such as bank accounts, driver’s licences, passports and more, and if Aadhaar aims to take multiple IDs and combine them under a single identity number so that all other historical data become redundant, it will equip the government of a perfect set-up for mass surveillance rather than targeted surveillance which will have grave consequences considering Indian citizens don’t have privacy laws.
Another reason why Aadhaar scheme is a legal breach of privacy is the fact that it uses biometric data rather than just verbal/written data. Biometric data allows for identification of citizens even when they don’t want to be identified. Even unconscious or dead citizens can be identified using biometrics. Smart cards require pins and conscious cooperation by the owner of the card during the identification process, therefore, if a citizen doesn’t want to be profiled, he/she has the right to do so.
In 2016, names, addresses, birth dates and national IDs of more than 50 million Turkish citizens were leaked including that of the Turkish President Erdogan. Again, in the same year, the entire voter database of Mexico consisting of over 87 million addresses, names and IDs were leaked by untraced sources. In the Philippines too, 55 million voters’ information including their fingerprints were leaked all over the dark web. All this, despite cutting-edge encryption technologies being in place. Is there a guarantee India too won’t fall prey to such a massive data hack? Since Aadhaar relies on biometric information, if the database is hacked, there is absolutely no way to change the credentials. Aadhaar, in its current shape, is very poorly designed and certainly needs technological upgradation in regards to data privacy and anti-hacking designs before it can be tabulated as a law.
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I’m 18. I play a bit of guitar. Eternally on tap to share good music. Only problem with political jokes is that they get elected, and I write about them.
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