The 'Aadhaar' database is undoubtedly one of the largest government databases in the world, where a 12 digit unique-identity alphanumeric number has been assigned to the majority of the Indian citizens. This database contains both the demographic as well as biometric data of the citizens. The main aim behind such a database is to create our country's very own 'economic data ecosystem'.
What started as a unique identification number to efficiently carry out the distribution of welfare to the needy has now turned into an all-pervasive tool that can arm the government with sensitive data of all Indians. At the core of this issue is the excess quantity of data being collected and saved as part of the scheme and the resulting privacy and security concerns being generated due to it.
The Aadhaar of today, in addition to basic personal information, includes biometric data like your fingerprints, your iris scan and now even your facial scans (albeit introduced as a safety feature). This is designed to address the issue of failed biometric authentication, as an alternative for people having difficulty authenticating, due to factors like worn out fingerprints, or changing biometric data due to old age, hard working conditions, accidents, etc.
Most debates around the Unique Identification Authority of India and Aadhaar primarily focus on privacy issues, security of the database and on the legality of making Aadhaar mandatory.
The Supreme Court on March 13, 2018, ruled that for now, citizens do not have to link their Aadhaar cards to any services including bank accounts and mobile phones. However, the biometric id is compulsory for accessing social welfare schemes and subsidies.
But even if these concerns are sorted out, there are many other concerns that need your immediate attention.
Here are the following things concerning Aadhaar you did not know -
Aadhaar does not work as an address proof since the address which is mentioned in the form is neither cross-checked nor validated but is just like an undertaking from the applicant that the address is valid and permanent. In addition to this, there can also be another person who can take guarantee of the address you have mentioned, and the same address becomes valid for applying the Aadhaar card.
Aadhaar card is not even a genuine identification of an individual since the main purpose of the card is only for the government database and thus does not hold any identification proof of the individual. However, linking of Aadhaar card is made mandatory to get mobile sim cards, bank accounts, etc.
Constitutionality of Aadhaar has been under fire for quite too long now since it hampers with the privacy of the citizens by allowing the government to hold access of the details of all the residents/citizens of the nation. Aadhaar numbers should not be made public as it can lead to stealing of personal details.
However, in order to be secure, you can actually protect privacy and confidentiality of your biometric data. Once the biometric is locked, you will not be able to use it (fingerprints/iris) for authentications and neither will anyone else, thus preventing potential misuse. The process has been kept quite simple and once locked, it will temporarily get unlocked for only ten minutes and will automatically get locked again later.
Aadhaar is not a proof of citizenship. In fact, Aadhaar is one of the documents to be produced while applying for a passport. Aadhaar is for any resident of India who has spent the last 182 days in the previous year of applying for the Aadhaar card. Therefore, any person who has been a resident for the specified number of days can apply for the card.
There is another extreme dimension of privacy that Aadhaar poses threat to. Among the supporters of Aadhaar are entrepreneurs and technocrats who want to use this technology to do well. They view this as a great opportunity for data mining, machine learning through big data techniques. The idea is that when you have an Aadhaar universe, you can learn useful things: some suggest that it may "enable macro level analysis from high frequency micro-level data, econometric analysis, epidemiological studies (relating to the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and control of diseases), automatic discovery of latent topics and finding both predictive and causal relationships across multiple domains of the economy", whereas others believe it will only allow data mining for the "improvement in credit rating infrastructure". This is what Nilekani (a renowned philanthropist) means when he says, "India will be data rich before becoming economically rich". Similar views are noticeable in the writings of other globally popular philanthropist groups like the 'Omidyar Network' and the 'Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation'. This objection against such a database is due to the creation of a 'personal data economy', which will collect information about citizens' personal life ahead of creating requisite digital and legal literacy and protection around these issues.