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Do privacy issues outweigh the important benefits of Aadhaar Card?

Aadhaar Card is a rectangular paper that gives its holder i.e Indian resident, a unique 12 digit number along with displaying the details of the holder's residence, blood group, retina scan and thumb imprint which is known as biometric and demographic data. Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a statutory authority established in by the Government of India earlier a part of Planning Commission now Niti Aayog is responsible for collecting all this data and storing it as a part of the enactment.

Why Aadhaar ? What is the purpose ? India is a huge country with the second largest population in the world. We have crores of people who do not listed in our system in any way thus the government mechanism is unable to help them or track the benefits to the grass root level. We have large streams of immigrant who flow from our neighbouring countries of Nepal and Bangladesh etc that causes several internal threats including terrorism.

Aadhaar as a biometric ID system views India in future as a country where each resident is accounted with a unique ID and hence aims for inclusion in necessity to address several problems including financial inclusivity, unemployment, benefits of government schemes. Currently, the Supreme Court has decided that non-possession of Aadhaar Card cannot be used to prevent subsidies or benefits to the public.

Currently, India has approximately more than a billion Aadhaar Card holders accounting for the largest biometric ID card system and it will just keep rising. We see the current government's anxiousness bordering impatience urging its citizens to link Aadhaar Card with bank accounts, mobile numbers, income tax filing along with the increasing number of Govt welfare schemes etc. Now, why should a person be reluctant to quote his or her Aadhaar number to so many agencies that are stored on so many different servers that are vulnerable to the core? The answer is simple... Right to privacy and the fear of losing it.

Though the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court recognized privacy as one of the rights of an individual it has kept open several ends to ensure legislature and executive participation. Aadhaar Card necessarily is all our information in one place. Linking it to all other devices like bank accounts and mobile numbers means that our information is replicated on several servers and accessed by a lot of virtual hands. These hands can easily hack any system and procure the information to sell it to third parties. It can be misused to no extent for the user's preference. A group of petitioners has already approached the Supreme Court and the bench has already heard arguments from both the sides of the on-going case.

Yes, Aadhaar information about millions of people stored on government and private agencies are not completely safe. That doesn't mean that the idea of Aadhaar should be scrapped. The benefits of the Aadhaar far exceed the potential threats arising from the safety issues. Technical experts from all over the world had said that Aadhaar Card would be a nightmare to execute and implement. But since those claims, India has successfully managed to reach through executing it so far. And now the implementation and security have become two different coins. With the implementation of the system, with the help of grass root level officers, various schemes and subsidies are linked through Aadhaar with online. This ensures benefits directly credited to the bank accounts with authenticity and enabling financial inclusion.

Security is ensured with the powerful central server where biometric and other data remain virtually safe with agreements of confidentiality and data protection with third party servers to prevent the data breach. In case of leak, methods to mitigate the following mishap must be made well in advance.

A stream is an origin and nobody predicts it to reach the sea after fighting all the obstacles in front of it. Similarly, Aadhaar Card is a key to more financially and socially inclusive and safe society that can't be aborted for a few solvable technical constraints.

- Karthiayani Nair