Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Privacy issue

The recent confession of the central government that there has been some leakage of Unique Identity (UID) data collected by the centre and stored in digital format puts a big question mark on the claims that entire data has been safe. Moreover, the data landing in the hands of private companies is a serious challenge to the safety of the data with the government. It is also unfortunate that the central government counsel admitted that there cannot be a foolproof system to safeguard the data and this in itself speaks of inability to protect privacy of citizens. In fact, as it has been pointed out time and again, making of Aadhar mandatory for getting a date of birth certificate for newly born children by Haryana government, amounts to surveillance of citizens from cradle to grave. This is in itself an intrusion in the privacy of the citizens and goes against the right to personal liberty guaranteed by the Constitution of India besides continued tracking of the citizens irrespective of their age and sex when Aadhar is linked to bus and train ticket reservations. Moreover, the contention of the centre that there have been stray incidents of data leakage from the states and some departments of the government where they could not guard against hacking by trained hackers collecting data from individual and serial data servers across the world. The hackers have again and again given a jolt to the security concerns of the people around the world by hacking the servers of not only Indian government but also other data servers of advanced countries making it amply clear no data is safe anywhere and anytime on the planet. The recent incidents of hacking of computers connected with the elections process of US president and in some poll processes in Europe by Russian experts have also brought to the fore the point that all data servers are at risk of hacking. Even the elections results can also be tampered with and go against the popular vote of the citizens in any country in the world. Some hackers have also proved beyond any point that data servers in India face risk of hacking when they broke into the computers of the Ministry of Defence in India and posted objectionable slogans on their screens. It took the Indian managers at National Informatics Centre (NIC) days and weeks together to remove the malware and restore their normal working. In the first instance, those opposing digital collection of data and its storage in computer servers by the government have a point that this data was posing a serious challenge to the privacy of the citizens. Besides, they also have a point that such data available on servers can be easily subjected to hacking and stealing by unscrupulous persons in the world. Similar data can also be used by hackers within and outside the country to steal money from banks of the people, who may not even come to know of such malfunctioning of the computers. This is particularly significant for the reasons that majority of the people in India do not have an access to Internet Network and cannot even access the data about them at any stage. So it is also quite clear that majority of citizens in the country are dependent on third party for getting even their Aadhar card and such a practice is always at the risk of hacking by the unknown and unscrupulous operators in the market. As such, the government institutions have been unable to provide the basic Aadhar card to the people through its own network. Similarly, despite objections, the central government has made it mandatory to link PAN (Permanent Account Number) cards of Income Tax Department with Aadhar cards further jeopardising the security of the people and their privacy. This is also an indicator that PAN cards may be discarded altogether in near future in a gradual process after July 1 this year though the case is sub-judice in the Supreme Court. It has been rightly pointed out that this is perhaps the worst project possible under our Constitution and invasion of privacy. The architecture of Aadhaar is worthless as far as information security is concerned. Aadhar is a scheme where the degree of invasion is extremely high and protection much low. It shows the sinisterness of the government action as people don’t want their life tracked and monitored 24×7 as it would be a tremendous compromise on civil liberties in democratic country.