UIDAI’s virtual ID drive is a practical solution to privacy concerns surrounding Aadhaar
Under siege for possible breach and leakage of Aadhaar data, one of the world’s largest mines of information, and its kneejerk reaction in stifling the media that reported it, the Unique Identification Authority of India’s (UIDAI) issuance of a virtual security layer or ID to protect privacy and entitlement seemed like a late though sane response. The new ID works pretty much like an OTP on your bank cards, allowing a peephole into only that much data as is required by the service provider, and not the original numbered code that would reveal a compendium of every citizen’s way of life. The problem with Aadhaar seeding and linking is that it strings together data silos of each individual and reconstructs a social and economic identity log that can be exploited by aggressive marketers and power corporations. Worse, you are profiled for big brotherly vigilance, which doesn’t make you exactly free in a democratic society.
Assuming that the Aadhaar database itself is safe, the correlation with several domains subjects it to misuse or abuse. So while the virtual ID and limited KYC usage is the first filter, we need to ensure that data is completely secured. Privacy protection does not mean that data shouldn’t be collected, stored or used. Nobody doubts the percolatory effects of a data pool to ensure efficient delivery of services and a guarantee of benefits to the intended. But there should be an equally meticulous counter mechanism to ensure that the data cannot be used for any purpose other than those that have been approved and are completely tamper-proofed, even from handlers. There should be an in-built authorisation schematics and legalisation of data protection.
Even with the first phase filters in place, a lot of the old data could still be floating in a set-up that is rife with vulnerabilities and no codified specifications. The right to privacy should not be seen as a rebellious assertion but about individual safety. Firewallling systems have not yet been able to stave off threats from malware and hackers. So it is doubly incumbent upon the establishment to arrest and contain porosity. At the same time the Government must also try to dissolve public perception of Aadhaar as a tyrant compliance to the state and an oppressive tool for the poorest. There have been reports about how the non-existence of Aadhaar cost people lives with a hospital refusing to admit patients who couldn’t produce a card or the homeless who were refused entry to a shelter in the absence of one. Worst, ration card holders unlinked to Aadhaar card had to let go of their supplies. UIDAI must ensure that the idea of inclusion doesn’t compromise those still excluded from basic parameters of life.
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