Aadhaar data leak can influence election results, says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has red-flagged the threat of probable misuse of citizens’ information by entities which were getting Aadhaar data authenticated by UIDAI

Aadhaar data leak can influence election results, says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of India on Tuesday observed that Aadhaar data leak can influence the electoral outcome of the country and could pose a threat to democracy. "Whether democracy can survive where data is used to influence the electoral outcome..." "The test should be of reasonable protection". The problem is symptomatic and we do not live in isolation.

Diwedi submitted that technology is advancing and we have limitations of understanding the technological developments.

However, the Unique Identification Authority of India, which operates Aadhaar, claimed that the regulations governing India's biometric system were more stringent than the European Union's data security norms. Besides the UIDAI can refuse a private enterprise from becoming a requesting entity under the Aadhaar Act. The UIDAI will not approve anyone to become a requesting entity unless it is satisfied that the particular entity needs to use a facility of authentication. This apprehension was echoed by Justice DY Chandrachud, a member of the bench hearing the cases. It is not that every person should come to court. "You must have an administrative mechanism by which benefit is not denied to anyone for authentication failure".

Petitioners had argued that smart card is better than Aadhaar as it is less intrusive. Dwivedi further said, that the smartcard lobby doesn't want Aadhaar to succeed.

The judge illustrated that a private hospital, which may have data about the number of visits of its patients and their medication, could possibly pass the information over to insurance or pharma companies for commercial use.

In January, it introduced 16-digit Virtual ID after one of the national newspapers The Tribune reported data breach privacy concern.

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When Dwivedi said that apprehensions about the misuse of data were "not real", Chandrachud insisted they were. In fact, no one could assure 100% data protection.

The petitioners contended that individual human beings are numbered with the use of Aadhaar as Hitler did and he had to face the consequences.

He then referred to the fact that documents like passport, PNR and boarding passes of airlines contain numbers only and it does not mean that identity of an individual is lost. So the courts can direct private players whenever there are excesses, he said. "We want the trust of the people".

"Aadhaar is not just an exercise to provide benefits and weed out fakes but also to bring the service providers face to face with the beneficiaries". Counsel said "Aadhaar is not a panacea for all ills. But this document is the starting point and not the end point".

Justice Chandrachud said "the problem is when (authentication) technology is deterministic it can lead to deprivation of fundamental rights". Nobody can predict what can happen tomorrow. Arguments will continue on Wednesday.

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