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SC Questions UIDAI’s Attempt To Introduce “Surveillance State” Around Aadhaar

SC Questions UIDAI’s Attempt To Introduce “Surveillance State” Around Aadhaar

UIDAI was inviting fresh bids to create a social media wing

Social Media Wing would counter and monitor negative opinions on Aadhaar

After the hearing, the government volunteered to withdraw invitation proposals for the bid

In a recent update on the controversies surrounding Aadhaar, the Supreme Court has questioned the Centre on the UIDAI tender which aimed to launch a social media wing in order to “counter” the negative ideas on Aadhaar.

A petition was filed by Trinamool member Mahua Moitra against the move to create an online surveillance on the people was heard by the top court bench including current Chief Justice Dipak Misra, AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud.

Commenting on the issue, DY Chandrachud said, “You are trying to do indirectly what we told you cannot do directly.”

The Supreme court not only expressed its disappointment but also mentioned that the move attempted to create a “surveillance state”.

The petitioner highlighted UIDAI’s invitation for fresh bids to launch the social media wing which was being designed to “identify problematic online conversations” and “neutralise negative sentiments”.

“Despite the fact that the constitutional validity of the entire Aadhaar scheme is under challenge and its fate is to be decided by the top court… the respondents have issued the impugned RFP to identify ‘top detractors’ and ‘neutralise negative sentiments,” said Mahua in her petition.

After the hearing, the Centre has volunteered to withdraw their proposal for launching the social media wing.

The Supreme Court had begun its final hearing for constitutional validity of Aadhaar Act in January, following which in March 2018, the Supreme Court’s five-judge bench had asked UIDAI to prepare a powerpoint presentation in order to identify the loopholes in the Aadhaar Act 2016 to address the validation of Aadhaar.

While presenting before the Supreme Court, UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey explained that all the personal data stored by Aadhaar are encrypted which cannot be hacked. He went on to claim that “it would take more than the age of the universe to break one encryption”.

The UIDAI also mentioned to the court that in order to improve the security, it will mandate the feature of face recognition as a process of Aadhaar authentication.

Major Controversies Surrounding Aadhaar

The unique identification number of Aadhaar had been undergoing a lot of debate and criticism since the inception of the Aadhaar (Targeted delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2016 due to its privacy concerns.

In July 2018, TRAI Chief RS Sharma had shared his Aadhaar number to challenge people to show him how could Aadhaar posses any danger and his personal details were leaked and published on the social media sites.

Prior to this in April, Srinivas Kodali, a security researcher revealed that personal data of nearly 1.34 lakh people from Andhra Pradesh have been leaked via Andhra Pradesh State Housing Corporation website. Details including caste, religion, account number, IFSC code, bank branch, mobile number etc were made available on the site publicly.

Personal details via Aadhaar were also leaked from Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) portal. Though the officials had confirmed that there were no instance of data theft.

The concerns regarding Aadhaar security were highlighted by French security researcher, who goes by the name of  Elliot Anderson, who had uploaded links containing Aadhaar data of thousands of people and also uploaded a video explaining how to hack the password protection of official Aadhaar app in a minute in order to point out the loopholes in Aadhaar security. 

[The development was reported by ET]