March 14, 2016 -
Last week, the Indian parliament passed legislation that adds a privacy protection framework to Aadhaar.
The bill, which as approved by the lower house on Friday, demands that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the agency that administers Aadhaar, take steps to ensure confidentiality of identity data. This includes storing all Aadhaar data in a centralized database known as the “Central Identities Data Repository”.
UIDAI will not only be mandated to take all appropriate technical measures to secure the data in the central repository, but will also have to ensure that any third-party using Aadhaar data also follows the mandated security measures as well.
The bill also includes imprisonment provisions and fines for both individuals and companies who disclose or share any core biometric information within the Aadhaar system.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley assured parliament that the bill would protect the Aadhaar system from being misused. According to a report in Indian Express, the minister said there would be no sharing of Aadhaar data without the consent of residents and no biometric data would be shared even with their consent.
The bill also establishes a high-level “oversight committee” consisting of the Cabinet Secretary and other secretaries within the Department of Legal Affairs and Department of Electronics and Information Technology to authorize any information disclosure from the Aadhaar system in the interest of national security.
The bill also changes the organizational structure of UIDAI. Under the new structure, UIDAI will now have a chairperson, two part-time members and a chief executive officer for a three year term, all eligible for reappointment.
The new structure ideally increases the accountability of the agency that manages the world’s largest universal civil ID program and biometric database, used by the Indian government to provide social services. To date, Aadhaar has issued over 900 million Aadhaar numbers, and has enrolled approximately 850 million people, with a goal of ultimately enrolling 1.28 billion people.
Jaitley noted during the debate that 97 percent of adults and 67 percent of minors in India had Aadhaar cards. He also stated that five to seven hundred thousand people were added to the Aadhaar system every day.