UIDAI Seeks to Assuage Aadhaar Discrimination, Privacy Concerns Before Supreme Court

“…the UIDAI insists that the Aadhaar ID program does not require data concerning ethnicity, religion, or caste, ensuring that such factors cannot be used for discriminatory purposes.”

The Unique Identification Authority of India is clarifying how the Aadhaar national biometric ID program it manages uses citizens’ data for the country’s Supreme Court. The UIDAI is currently trying to reassure a panel of judges that Aadhaar does not allow for demographic discrimination, and that it adheres to last year’s Supreme Court ruling that privacy is a fundamental right for Indian citizens.

With respect to concerns about discrimination, the UIDAI insists that the Aadhaar ID program does not require data concerning ethnicity, religion, or caste, ensuring that such factors cannot be used for discriminatory purposes. Additionally, the UIDAI argued through its legal counsel, the omission of such information helps to ensure that Aadhaar safeguards citizens’ privacy.

The UIDAI’s legal counsel elaborated that there are four levels of data associated with Aadhaar: Core biometrics, biometrics, optional demographics, and demographics. The category of core biometrics, presumably referring to Aadhaar’s collection of fingerprint and iris data, is never shared with other organizations, the counsel argued, whereas expectations of privacy diminish with each layer beyond the core category.

The arguments in play could have far-reaching implications for Aadhaar, which is currently the world’s most extensive and ambitious biometric ID program, and is used in an increasing range of everyday activities in India. But privacy and discrimination aren’t the only issues with which India’s Supreme Court is concerned, with one judge gesturing during the proceedings to the dangers of centrally storing aggregated citizen data – a remark to which the UIDAI lawyer essentially shrugged, suggesting that such fears will prevent progress.

Source: The Hindu

April 23, 2018 – by Alex Perala