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Right to privacy a fundamental right: 7 Aadhaar controversies that raised concern

Critics say Aadhaar, which has information of more than a billion Indians, could be used for identity theft, government surveillance and security breaches.

india Updated: Aug 24, 2017 14:58 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aadhaar card,Aadhaar number,Aadhaar leak
About 210 government websites displayed personal details and Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries. (Representative image)

After the Supreme Court’s historic judgment on Thursday declaring right to privacy a fundamental one under the Constitution, all eyes are now on Aadhaar.

Aadhaar -- the 12-digit biometric identification project -- was mooted roughly a decade ago to plug leakages in the delivery of state benefits. But many say the massive data collection process, which has information of more than a billion Indians, could be used for identity theft, government surveillance and security breaches.

At least 21 Aadhaar leaks or data breaches have been detailed till April 27 this year, Hindu Business Line reported.

Here are seven Aadhaar leaks that raised concerns over privacy and security:

1) Dhoni’s Aadhaar details published

A government-authorised Aadhaar enrolment centre was blacklisted for publishing former Indian cricket team captain MS Dhoni’s personal details in March.

The embarrassment didn’t end there. Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad did not initially realize information about the cricketer was leaked in the agency’s Twitter post, which was re-tweeted by him. Prasad subsequently thanked Dhoni’s wife Sakshi for bringing it to his notice and promised action against the Common Service Centre.

The incident prompted critics to question how the common man’s privacy would remain safe if a known personality’s wasn’t.

2) Jharkhand’s more than million leaks

In April this year, more than a million Aadhaar numbers were leaked by a Jharkhand government website. Officials involved were similarly unaware of how the data made its way onto the public domain and the glitch revealed the names, addresses, Aadhaar numbers and bank account details of the beneficiaries of Jharkhand’s old age pension scheme.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) moved swiftly to shut down the website but days after the Jharkhand leaks, at least four other data breaches were reported.

3) Government admission

About 210 websites of the central and state government departments were found to be displaying personal details and Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries, Parliament was informed during the monsoon session in July.

“UIDAI (The Unique Identification Authority of India) has taken note of the same and is regularly monitoring the status to get the Aadhaar data removed from the said websites,” minister of state for electronics and IT, PP Chaudhary, said in a written reply in Lok Sabha.

4) Then, Punjab leaks

A Punjab government website in August exposed the Aadhaar numbers of more than 20,000 people who applied for low-cost housing in Ludhiana and Jagraon, the latest in a string of blunders by administrative officials that jeopardize citizen privacy.

Links were removed later but PDF files remained online a day after the leak being pointed out.

5) Techie gets illegal access to Aadhaar database

A Bengaluru-based software developer was arrested in August for allegedly accessing the Aadhaar database through a mobile application he had developed. Abhinav Shrivastav, an alumnus of IIT-Kharagpur, developed the app ‘Aadhaar E-KYC Verification’ which accessed the Aadhaar database through the e-Hospital application of the National Informatics Centre – an authentication user agency.

6) Tommy Singh: Every dog has his Aadhaar

A man was arrested after he got his dog an Aadhaar card in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind district in 2015. Like all Aadhaar cards, it had a photo of the dog with the name Tommy Singh, son of Sheru Singh, and mentioned his date of birth as November 26, 2009.

What’s better? Police had to investigate if the accused had made such cards for other animals too.

7) Divine Comedy

2094705195411: This was the 12-digit unique identification number prescribed to ‘Lord Hanuman’ three years back. The Aadhaar card bore a picture of the popular Hindu god, addressed him as the son of ‘Pawan’ and even displayed a mobile number and thumbprint.

But a shocked postman in Sikar district of Rajasthan couldn’t find any takers to deliver the card, which was dispatched from Bangalore.

First Published: Aug 24, 2017 14:54 IST