“By protecting the use of Aadhaar authentication on a voluntary basis, the central government is seeking to ensure that Aadhaar can still be used for private sector services.”
India’s Parliament has passed legislation allowing citizens to voluntarily use Aadhaar as identification when opening new banking or mobile accounts.
The bill, called “The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019,” can be seen as a workaround to a Supreme Court ruling last September that determined that Aadhaar-based authentication could not be required for these kinds of services. The aim in the ruling was to restrict the use of the biometric national ID program to its original mandate – the delivery of welfare and other social subsidies – and to assuage privacy concerns about Aadhaar’s growing pervasiveness across Indian society. By protecting the use of Aadhaar authentication on a voluntary basis, the central government is seeking to ensure that Aadhaar can still be used for private sector services.
The new legislation also seeks to introduce new penalties for private organizations found to be in violation of Aadhaar’s data protections, including a fine of Rs 10,000,000 and even prison terms. Government authorities, particularly the Unique Identification Authority of India, which administrates Aadhaar, have struggled with the fallout from multiple alleged breaches and compromises of the Aadhaar database and citizen data.
In addition to the new amendment legislation, the central government’s Law and Information Technology Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, has indicated that a comprehensive “Data Protection Act” is in the works, though details of this legislation are vague at present.
July 9, 2019 – by Alex Perala