Right to privacy is one of the most debatable topics, which had flooded the newspaper and social media and still is one of the major developments by Indian Judiciary. To understand the crux and importance of privacy one needs to be acquainted with the meaning of Privacy. In simple words, Privacy generally connotes the right to personal autonomy. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud while delivering judgment in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India concluded “Privacy includes at its core the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation. Privacy also connotes a right to be left alone, safeguards individual autonomy. Personal choices governing a way of life are intrinsic to privacy. Privacy recognizes the plurality and diversity of our culture.”
The nine-judge bench on 24th August 2017 made a historic decision when it declared privacy as a Fundamental Right enshrined under Part III of Indian Constitution. The emergence of this right can be traced in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which provides for right to life and personal liberty. The Right to privacy is recognized as a natural and inalienable right under Art 21. An intrusion of privacy threatens liberty.
Hence privacy is such a basic right and is associated with the right of the individual to exercise control over his or her personality. The data which is collected under the Aadhaar scheme and saved in UIDAI’s database is integral to one’s personality and hence making it mandatory to provide basic and intimate information is unconstitutional and violative of these rights.
Aadhaar is the 12-digit number which came up as identity proof of every Indian, but unfortunately, today it is merely restricted to prevent and dissuade people from being eligible for the entitlement of services. It has become a ground of exclusion of services. Looking into another factor, the “world-class security standards” as promised by UIDAI (Unique Identification Development Authority of India), the claims are just as wide as Gargantuan’s mouth - just tempting but not real. There have been various incidences where we have seen data loss and where the essential data has been leaked bringing out the loopholes in the system. Hence privacy which is now our Fundamental Right and protected by Judiciary cannot be allowed to be played upon with, rather strict measures should be adopted to safeguard it as it is not a playing tool.
There have been various incidents which brought out the loopholes-
I) The recent incident of Lucknow, where a gang who used to steal images of fingerprints of Aadhaar enrollment operators, and then used to print them on resin paper to replicate them on stamps, was busted by Police officials. The biometrics and other personal information thus is in danger in presence of such malicious elements in our society.
“Fingerprint scanners, iris scanners, Aadhaar cards, have been recovered from the men, police said, indicating a well-established network that appeared to have bypassed extensive security mechanisms set by the Unique Identification Authority of India.”
At present, the government is promoting the use of Aadhaar card while the occurrence of such incidences casts a shadow on the efforts and speaks of the sorry state of affairs.
II) Around 200 students at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) in Matunga also hacked the biometric attendance system. One should ponder that if college students can easily break through the biometrics security system then what professional gangs and hackers can do with all the personal information. The data being held by the UIDAI is in looming threat. Security experts of our country on numerous occasions have highlighted the inherent dangers of systems like Aadhaar.
“Biometrics are public information as they can be captured and replicated using a high-resolution camera. Using biometrics alone as a passcode is conceptually flawed, said Subhashish Banerjee, Professor of Computer Science Engineering at IIT Delhi.”
III) In response to an RTI (Right To Information) query, Unique Identification Authority of India stated that more than “two hundred central and state government websites have publicly displayed the names, address, Aadhaar numbers and personal details of people who have enrolled for Aadhaar. “
Apart from it, there are many other occurrences which draw the attention of the nation highlighting the errors and loopholes and how our privacy right is infringed by the data loss from UIDAI’s server. According to a study published by Centre for Internet and Society, CIS found that data of over 130 million Aadhaar cardholders has been leaked from just four government websites. Further, details of 13 crore citizens were leaked from the Aadhaar database which can easily land in the hands of the private companies.
The current government is focusing more on the digital economy. But it must realize that privacy is the vital component and the cardinal principle in the country’s growing digital economy. Protection of a person’s privacy ensures their trust in this new era of the digital world.
The Aadhaar system is a direct violation of privacy by collecting biometrics and other personal information and is being played with, owing to no proper security standards. There are rampant issues of mass surveillance and public profiling. The data saved in UIDAI’s server is not safe as it is being collected by private bodies with no proper government backing and supervision. Instead of becoming a part of inclusion of services, Aadhaar is now restricted to exclusion of services by denying services to the people who don’t have Aadhaar or who have not enrolled in it. There is no legal accountability of the database since the data is being collected and linked by virtue of common ID, which results in providing incentives for hacking and Government Surveillance. Then comes the term NATIONAL SECURITY which is most misinterpreted by authorities. Since there is no proper definition of this phrase either in the constitution or in the Aadhaar Act. It provides the government right to access someone’s data without any proper judicial oversight.
There are some people including labourers and farmers who don’t have clearly defined fingerprints as a result of extreme manual labour. Apart from them, there are old people with dry hands and thus, are facing difficulty to enrol for Aadhaar as fingerprints is one of the necessary part for enrollment. Then people with weak iris scan, cataract or other eyes disease also face problem in enrollment as eye scan is also a necessary step for enrollment. In all such cases, enrollment agencies refuse to register them defeating the very aim of inclusion of a poor and marginalized section of society. Recent incidences of UIDAI blacklisting thirty-four thousand private enrollment agencies, the leak of data of famous personalities like Mahendra Singh Dhoni and then on his tweet data being removed by UIDAI brings forth the weakness in security standards.
Therefore, all such points speak of how our privacy is being played with by the introduction of Aadhaar cards. There is unrestricted mass surveillance on data, which at any cost do not augment civil liberty and democracy, resulting in our privacy being put at stake. Hence privacy being a fundamental right must be given prior importance and due consideration.
Navin Kumar Jaggi