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Data Protection

A high-level government committee of experts headed by Justice B N Srikrishna has asked for views from relevant people on data protection. It is an issue of great importance and has special relevance to the increasing scope of Aadhaar linking for different services. The matter is awaiting adjudication by the apex court. The Aadhaar biometric data are now being used for every area of activity ranging from school admission to obtaining a death certificate. What is open to question is that the data provided can be leaked or misused. Besides, the method of collecting data is also questionable. Personal information gets shared among different third parties. Aadhaar linking in day to day transactions is likely to make personal life an open book. The whole exercise violates the right to privacy upheld by the Supreme Court. Such information can be used against an individual for profit or crime. It can profile him on the basis of his caste, religion, sexual orientation, political views and so on. Such exposure naturally causes concern and underscores the need for data protection. It is necessary to institute an independent data protection authority to deal with the use of information by governments and corporations.

It should be ensured that data collected should be used only for the purpose for which such details are collected. The limitation must not be breached and if that is done strict penalties should be imposed. That may include financial compensation or even or even criminal prosecution. A strong cyber security system is definitely called for. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s reassertion of net-neutrality may not be consistent with the official stress on data protection which is becoming all the more important with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a Digital India.

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