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Privacy a fundamental right: What it means for govt and tech firms

The ruling upholds persona freedom and choices and has ramifications across the board.

india Updated: Aug 24, 2017 18:12 IST
Chetan Chuahan
Chetan Chuahan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Supreme Court,right to privacy,fundamental rights
A woman getting an iris scan done for Aadhaar. The Supreme Court’s order that privacy is a fundamental right could have a bearing on the government’s push for the biometric identity number. (File photo)

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that individual’s privacy was a “guaranteed fundamental right”, a landmark judgment that could force the government to redefine some of its programmes, including Aadhaar, the 12-digit biometric identity number.

A nine-member Constitution bench was unanimous that the right to privacy was at par with the right to life and liberty, protecting citizens’ personal freedom from state intrusion. It will also make it difficult for enforcement agencies to obtain information on individuals.

The ruling has implications for companies that store and manage data. Here, is what the order can mean for the government and tech giants.

Aadhaar: The Aadhaar (Targetted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, though provides more protection to privacy than the colonial-era telegraph act but it may fall short in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict.

The law provides for seeking consent of individuals before their information can be shared with an agency but it also gives district judges the power to overrule the consent clause. This and similar other provisions in the Aadhaar act may be up for review by a three-member SC bench.

Welfare schemes: The notifications making Aadhaar must for availing more than 100 welfare services may not stand judicial scrutiny. The petitioners pleaded that the notifications were forcing people to enrol for Aadhaar in violation of fundamental rights and should be scrapped. The government can’t deny public service to people if they don’t have Aadhaar, they have argued.

Internet: The ruling will also force social-media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and technology giants like Google to tighten privacy norms on storing and sharing personal data. The information technology act, 2000 provides for data protection but not privacy protection. Companies guilty of data breach can be fined Rs 1 crore but there is no compensation for an individual losing personal information.

Security: Senior home department officials can allow police, security and investigating agencies to tap personal conversation for investigation. The order will force government to rework the practice.

First Published: Aug 24, 2017 18:03 IST