On Wednesday (November 20), minister of information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad told Parliament that the government has no proposal for linking Aadhaar with social media accounts of individuals.
“There is no such proposal with the government for linking Aadhaar with social media accounts of individuals,” Prasad said. The minister was asked whether the government proposes to enact a law for linking Aadhaar with social media accounts of individuals.
The minister also said that as a matter of policy and by design, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) precludes itself from aggregating information arising from the use of Aadhaar, tracking and profiling individuals. “…the system by intent is blind to the purpose for which Aadhaar may be used at the front end by the resident. Also, the core biometrics is encrypted at the time of enrolment/updation. It is never kept unencrypted and is never shared,” he added.
He emphasised that Aadhaar is based on three core principles of “minimal information, optimal ignorance and federated database.”
“In its whole lifecycle, an Aadhaar database contains only the information that the resident provides at the time of enrolment or updation… The database may also have mobile and e-mail, if provided by the resident, during enrolment or updation,” Prasad said.
The question came in the light of the petition filed in July 2018 in the Madras HC seeking to link Aadhaar with social media platforms. The case was heard by the HC which had then expanded the petition to include issues like ensuring message traceability for ‘curbing cybercrimes and intermediary liability’.
The case was requested to be taken to the Supreme Court by Facebook, which filed a transfer petition on public interest litigations (PILs) against WhatsApp’s traceability pending at the Madras HC, Bombay HC and in Madhya Pradesh HC. The SC had sought the Modi-led government’s view on the matter and warned against repercussions.
In the next hearing, the court asked the central government to submit a timeframe for formulating the guidelines to curb social media misuse within three weeks i.e. by October 22, the date of the next hearing.
However, Facebook and WhatsApp had strongly objected to Aadhaar linking, saying it would affect the privacy of its users. It said a nine-judge bench of the SC had upheld privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution.
The UIDAI has clearly stated that the government will have to enact a new law to link Aadhaar to social media accounts of individuals. The reason, according to UIDAI, is that the current legislation only enables the use of Aadhaar for schemes and subsidies funded under the Consolidated Fund of India. For anything outside the purview of this fund, a new law has to be put in place.
The SC will now hear the matter in January after the Centre formulates new guidelines on intermediaries.