Govt. Admits That 210 Websites Are Publicly Displaying Aadhaar Data!
The government has admitted that over 210 websites are publicly showing Aadhaar data of Citizens, but the UIDAI CEO says that the leak of Aadhaar data is nothing to worry about!
Right now, a 9-judge bench inside Supreme Court is debating whether privacy is a fundamental right of Indian citizens or now. And the verdict of this case shall be a water-shed moment for India’s massive biometric powered citizen identity program: Aadhaar.
However, even as the debate regarding privacy and Aadhaar is on, two very interesting developments have happened, which needs a closer scrutiny by advocates of privacy, and campaigners of Aadhaar based database.
While Govt. has admitted that around 200 websites are still displaying Aadhaar data of Indian citizens, UIDAI CEO has said in an interview that even if Aadhaar number is leaked, it is not a big deal.
Should be say good-bye to the privacy aspect of Indian citizens? Is your Aadhaar data protected?
210 Websites Displaying Aadhaar Details Of Citizens
In a written response to a question inside Parliament, PP Chaudhary, who is the Minister of state for electronics and IT admitted that 210 websites are still displaying Aadhaar details of Indian citizens, which can be accessed by anyone.
However, he said that there has been no leakage of Aadhaar data by UIDAI, which is the apex body managing Aadhaar expansion and execution.
As per the reply, majority of the websites which are displaying Aadhaar details are Govt. websites, educational portals and NGOs, which are required by law to show who are the beneficiaries of the welfare schemes.
Under RTI, anyone can ask for this information, hence they have publicly showcased the data (which includes Aadhaar data as well) on the websites.
The Minister said, “Some ministries were publishing this data in compliance with the Right to the Information Act which says that list of beneficiaries should be public so that citizens know that where the government money has been spent.”
As per IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, 530 social welfare schemes initiated from 63 ministries and 1,200 schemes from 75 ministries are directly linked with Aadhaar.
As per the reply, UIDAI has now been instructed to remove the Aadhaar details from their websites, and the process is on.
The Minister said, “They were also publishing Aadhaar numbers and bank accounts details but in March we told them not to publish such details and they have complied with it.”
UIDAI CEO: No Need To Worry If Aadhaar Number Is Leaked
Meanwhile, in an interview, UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey has said that there is no need to worry, if Aadhaar number of any citizen is leaked.
As per the CEO, Aadhaar dataset includes biometric details along with demographic data combined with the Aadhaar number. Out of this, if the Aadhaar number is leaked, it should not create chaos.
He said, “What I would like people to understand is that Aadhaar is not a secret number like your password or PIN [personal identification number], which can materially affect your life tomorrow if it is leaked without your knowledge. It is not like your Aadhaar number is leaked and your bank account gets emptied out.”
Along with that, he assured that around 5000 operators have been penalized due to Aadhaar leak, and strict instructions have been provided to ensure that Aadhaar number and other details are not leaked.
He said that they have now ‘banned’ publishing of Aadhaar data on any website, and strict action is being taken against those who are still doing it. However, he also said that no action has been taken against those Govt. agencies which had published Aadhaar data by mistake, because the intent was not ‘criminal’.
You can find the full interview here.
We will keep you updated as we receive more information on the privacy aspect of Aadhaar database, and Supreme Court’s take on it.