Individual data goldmine of commercial information, says SC

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New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) Expressing serious concern over information surveillance taking place in the country for commercial purposes, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that individual data is a goldmine of commercial information.

“Today, commercial information is itself a goldmine of information. Even little things we disclose for Aadhaar is available for commercial purposes. We are dealing with data of 1.3 billion people, some of who may be poor…but the goldmine of information is available for commercial purposes,” the five-judge constitution bench observed.

The observation by the bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, came after the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) contended that biometric and demographic data on 1.3 billion people stored with it was secure from any intrusion.

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“Information of individuals is a goldmine, a source of huge commercial market outside” and “today, all information about an individual is of commercial value” said the bench, also comprising Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan.

The court’s observation came as senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the UIDAI, sought to assure the constitution bench that they have foolproof system where every information gets transformed in an encrypted form that cannot be cracked and thus cannot be hacked.

Stating that currently, India did not have a “robust data protection law”, the court told Dwivedi that the leak of information might not arise at the UIDAI end but at the end of requesting authority seeking authentication of information of the Aadhaar holder.

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Informing the bench that when a request reaches UIDAI for the authentication of individual data, they only say “yes” or “No” and no individual information was shared, Dwivedi, however, said that they had no control over the requesting authority.

At this, the bench said that this made the requesting entity an uncharted sea.

During the course of the hearing, when Dwivedi told the bench that the UIDAI only knew about the request of authentication of identity and nothing about the transactions being undertaken by the Aadhaar holder, Justice Sikri said: “You may not have details of transactions but you have the details of (individual’s) activities.”

Dwivedi said that government did not need Aadhaar for doing surveillance. “Surveillance is happening, but nobody needs Aadhaar for that.”

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The court was hearing a batch of petitions, including by former Karnataka High Court Judge K.S. Puttuswamy, Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon, social activists Aruna Roy, Nikhil De, Nachiket Udupa and others challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme on the touchstone of the fundamental right to privacy.



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