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Last updated: March 17, 2016 at 19:12 pm

Aadhaar Card Bill Will Bring Exceptional Benefits; But, Privacy Remains a Concern

Aadhaar Card Bill Back

In an unprecedented move rarely seen in India, Modi Govt. used some smart tactics to pass the Aadhaar Card Bill in the Lok Sabha; thereby rejecting all changes which Rajya Sabha has proposed.

By converting Aadhaar Card Bill into Money Bill, Lok Sabha (which is dominated by BJP) was able to approve the bill without implementing any change which would have diluted the effect which Modi Govt. has planned regarding this bill.

Once the President approves it, Aadhaar Card would have legal power behind it, thereby making it an efficient, centralized and universal identity card for all Indians.

As of now, 98 crore Aadhar Cards have been issued, and the Govt. is sure that Aadhaar Card would be the de-facto identity proof of all Indians within few years.

Here are some advantages of Aadhaar Card, which Nandan Nilekani, former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIAI) shared via editorial published on Indian Express:

  • Govt. would be able to save Rs 50,000 crore per year by using Aadhaar Card for distributing social welfare schemes to the poor.
  • Rs 10,000 crore was saved by the Govt. last year, when the subsidy for LPG connections were distributed using Aadhaar Card
  • As per Nandan, Government of India can now claim to be paper-less, presence-less and cash-less by using Aadhaar Card extensively
  • 2000 crore of papers (estimated) would be saved
  • 600 million hours would be saved by 300 million+ people who seek Govt. services daily
  • Modi Govt.’s vision of JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile) would be now smoothly implemented across India, with the greatest beneficiary being the poor who didn’t have any identity till date
  • As per Nandan, Aadhsar Card shall also help in ensuring Net Neutrality, as digital identity of all Aadhar Card users would be stored within India
  • Aadhar Card would only save the following details about an Indian citizen: Name, address, date of birth, sex and, optionally, email id/ mobile number and biometric information (photo, fingerprint and iris scan)

But What About Privacy?

Advocators of privacy and information protection are arguing that Aadhsar Card can be grossly misused by both Govt. agencies and via unauthorized access.

Intimate and highly sensitive data of 100 crore Indians are being saved at two locations: Bangalore and Manesar (Haryana), and even if one location is compromised, it can prove to be disastrous for the common man.

Tathagata Satpathy, Lok Sabha Member from Odisha said, “It has been showcased as a tool exclusively meant for disbursement of subsidies and we do not realize that it can also be used for mass surveillance,”

As per some security analysts, biometric data of 100 million+ Indians would give Indian Govt. more intrusive and surveillance power than America’s National Security Agency (NSA), whose dark secrets were revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013.

Tathagat actually asks the Govt.: “Can the government … assure us that this Aadhaar card and the data that will be collected under it – biometric, biological, iris scan, finger print, everything put together – will not be misused as has been done by the NSA in the US?”

In defense, Nandan has shared in his blog that there are several inbuilt security mechanism in the whole system of UIDAI platform, which will make such deep rooted surveillance a tough nut to crack:

  • Use Limitation: Any person or entity can only extract that information for which the user has given consent. A provision of fine and imprisonment exists in case any information is extracted without consent.
  • Collection Limitation: Only that information can be extracted, which is fed into the system. Unlike NSA’s artificial intelligent computers, UIAI cannot extract other vital details about the user or persons associated with the user.
  • As per the said rules, no information provided under UIDAI can be displayed publicly by any entity (Government or 3rd party)
  • As per a discussion thread on Reddit, information extraction from Aadhar Card would be possible using an API, same like Google or Facebook’s API. Hence, the security level can be compared with them.

Having said that, there lies some distinct possibilities that Govt. may use the Aadhasr Card data against the citizens itself. For instance, Govt. can record the videos of protesters at any location, scan the iris (eye scan) data, and easily find out everything about the protesters.

Now, in case the protesters are wrong, then this scanning and discovering information about them is an excellent thing. But in case the Govt. is wrong on that issue, and then they find out everything about the protesters, then the data can give them an unfair advantage.

As per some Human Right Activists, there should be a watchdog which ensures that such a massive collection of data is not misused against the citizens; and hackers are not able to get access to it. Govt.’s IT security is anyways known to be mediocre, and highly prone to hacking; and God forbid if biometric and other personal information of all Indian citizens is stolen by anti-social elements or robbers, then it can actually create unprecedented chaos, loss and havoc all around.

We will keep you updated as more details come in..

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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