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Indian justice proposes police loophole for Aadhaar biometrics access

States balk at data sharing proposal
Indian justice proposes police loophole for Aadhaar biometrics access

Pressure is growing for increased access to and sharing of Indians’ personal data and even biometrics. A series of legal cases and government requests could undermine privacy and data protection for individuals or hundreds of millions of citizens.

Justice suggests flip to have UIDAI do police identification work

A High Court justice has proposed that the police hand over its biometric evidence in a murder case to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for them to attempt identifying a subject, given the fact the authority cannot supply data to police forces, reports The Indian Express.

The Delhi Police asked the Delhi High Court to direct the UIDAI to check a photograph and fingerprints with the Aadhaar database to identify a suspect.

“Of course you will not supply it. You will not be sharing it. They will give you the biometric, fingerprints. If it tallies, you will tell that it will tally with this person. You will not share with them (the biometric information), certainly not,” Justice Mukta Gupta is quoted as saying.

The UIDAI said the law prohibits it from sharing biometric information with anyone, even for an individual requesting access to their own data. The court has given the authority four weeks to file a report on whether the Aadhaar Act allows it to share such information with an investigating agency, ahead of hearing the case on 28 April.

A “technology issue” may be another barrier to identification. The UIDAI told the court that the Aadhaar system does not allow for 1:N sharing, only 1:1. The advocate also said the Supreme Court had already stayed an earlier order of the Bombay High Court.

Indian states push back on Aadhaar data sharing with departments

Indian states have raised concerns about security issues of an Aadhaar data transfer being demanded by the Department of Food and Public Distribution, reports The Indian Express.

The DFPB wants states to provide Aadhaar and ration card details of beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act to the National Health Authority (NHA). This to aid the NHA in its plan to match the 2011 Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) database with the Aadhaar database and the public distribution system database. This, it hopes, will identify beneficiaries of the recently-launched health insurance program Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (or ‘PM-JAY’).

The NHA wrote to the Department of Food and Public Distribution (DFPB) stating that the database created by the SECC is insufficient for identifying health insurance beneficiaries, and that the agency believes full rollout of Ayushman insurance cards to be “extremely unlikely.” The DFPB director then wrote to all states requesting assistance in sharing details of the individuals receiving ration assistance.

However, the states are not necessarily forthcoming on sharing their data. They raise security issues and concerns that the central government could use the data for political gains.

The Indian Express includes sources which say that a lack of clarity as to whether Aadhaar data can be shared between departments has made state governments reluctant to share. An official said the onus for data protection and privacy as well as gaining the consent of the individuals – the beneficiaries of food welfare – would lie with the NHA. The authority is said to be considering online and offline consent gathering such as forms at ration shops and text messages.

Government databases such as the National Food Security Act and others for agricultural households have been shared with private insurers in the past, after consent was acquired from individuals, the report notes.

High Court demands answers, data on over 400 holders of falsified Aadhaar cards

A district magistrate has been accused of issuing fake certificates to allow 400 people from his home state of Rajasthan to obtain Aadhaar cards stating them to be Delhi residents, enabling them to enrol for training in civil defence and apply for Delhi jobs, reports The Economic Times.

The Delhi High Court approved an Anti Corruption Branch request and asked the UIDAI to provide information on the more than 400 people allegedly issued fake cards, reportedly made during holidays at the Aadhaar centre based in the office of the district magistrate.

The prosecutor said the information sought from the UIDAI was crucial to establish the forgery committed and did not invade the privacy of the card holders. The UIDAI said the authority has no objection to sharing the information as permitted by the Aadhaar Act.

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