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HindustanTimes Wed,22 Oct 2014

A new framework to protect privacy

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 06, 2011
First Published: 19:49 IST(6/10/2011) | Last Updated: 00:07 IST(7/10/2011)

The country's top planning body the Planning Commission is working on a national privacy policy following fears of the civil society that the government was trying to get private information of individuals without enough safeguards.

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The plan panel has constituted an expert group under the chairmanship of former chief justice of Delhi high court AP Shah to draft a legislative framework to ensure technical safeguards against misuse of the private information sought by the government for grounds of national security or delivery of welfare measures.

There are series of government projects that has privacy related issues.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is collecting biometric details of all residents under unique identification number or Aadhar scheme, which would eventually be linked to availing government's welfare schemes.

The home ministry has initiated National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) programme with an intention to ask telecom and Internet service providers to compulsorily link their databases with that of the government to check cyber related terror threats.

The Science and Technology ministry has drafted a DNA Profiling Bill for home ministry with an intention to create a genetic database of all persons arrested by police. If the person is acquitted, the draft law, says the DNA records of the person will be deleted from the official records.

The government's intention of creating Information Technology (IT) based database of individuals may be based on sound logic but many within the government had raised questions regarding it's misuse. Even the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has proposed a draft law on privacy has failed to convince the detractors within the government.

"We must now allow encroachment of individual's private details in name of identification or security. There have to be some safeguards for citizens to feel that the information will not be misused," minister of state for planning Ashwini Kumar told Hindustan Times recently.

 The plan panel in the recent past had received several representations from citizen groups fearing misuse of the information sought and Kumar said the commission was looking at having technological safeguards to prevent "unreasoned, arbitrary and malicious" intrusion into private space of individuals.

The expert group headed by Shah has been asked to examine whether the IT platforms being used by different government agencies are compliant with different government rules and the Supreme Court judgments on privacy issues. The group is also considering the draft privacy law prepared by DoPT.

"We had a first meeting were some issues were discussed," Shah said and added that the entire gamut of privacy related issues with respect to legislative framework will be studied.


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