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Aadhaar law will clear Constitution test, need to secure data: Arun Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Wednesday said the Aadhaar law will “pass the test of constitutionality” and that it is important to build “ironwalls” to protect people’s data.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: September 14, 2017 7:44 am
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Arun Jaitley, Aadhaar Law, UPA Government, Aadhaar, India News, Indian Express, Indian Express News Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at the Conclave on Financial Inclusion in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Wednesday said the Aadhaar law will “pass the test of constitutionality” and that it is important to build “ironwalls” to protect people’s data. He said the Aadhaar scheme announced by the UPA government was “technologically great” but it did not realise the “full potential” of the unique identification system. The NDA government, he said, provided legal backing to Aadhaar to realise its full potential, including direct transfer of benefits to bank accounts of beneficiaries.

The Supreme Court is hearing a petition challenging making Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits under various social welfare schemes of the government. The next hearing is in the first week of November.

“When the UPA government brought in Aadhaar, in terms of technology, it was a great idea… but its full potential was not realised,” Jaitley said at an event on financial inclusion organised by the United Nations in India.

“A legislation was necessary and because of evolving debate, the confidentiality of the data and (the need) to build some ironwalls around the data itself was also equally important. The (Aadhaar) legislation has been passed and I am sure it will stand the test of constitutionality,” he said.

Last month, a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court declared right to privacy a fundamental right, saying it is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedom guaranteed by the Constitution. The Bench, however, provided some “illustrative restraints” to the right to privacy.

The Centre has separately set up a committee to draft a data protection law. Jaitley alluded to “reasonable restrictions” highlighted by the Supreme Court in the judgement while upholding the idea of privacy as an important constitutional guarantee under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Distribution of social benefits using Aadhaar data was cited as a reasonable restriction in the judgement, he said.

Citing these restraints posing conditions on privacy, Jaitley said: “They have to be by the law, they have to be obviously reasonable and some of illustrative restraints, these are illustrative and not exhaustive, are in the larger interest of national security or for the purposes of detection of crime or for the purpose of dissemination of social benefits.”

“I think the third criteria is very consciously inserted as an illustrative restraint because that is the principal purpose for which this was intended to be used and that is where this interplay of over a billion Aadhaar number over a billion bank accounts and mobile phones itself has an important role,” he said.

Jaitley said Aadhaar helps in better targeting of subsidies as it is able to identify the actual beneficiaries. Aadhaar, combined with Jan Dhan accounts, ensures an efficient system of transferring benefits.

He said as many as 30 crore families have got bank accounts since the launch of India’s biggest ever bank account opening drive, Jan Dhan Yojana, three years ago.

Over the period of three years, he said, the number of zero-balance accounts has reduced from 77 per cent to 20 per cent and even these would become operational once the direct benefit transfer is expanded.

“The more the DBT expands, the more the operationalisation itself of these accounts expands,” he said.

In addition to financial inclusion, Jaitley said, the government has taken steps to provide security to the poor via life insurance under the Pradhan Mantra Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) and accident insurance Pradhan Mantra Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY).

Total enrolment was 3.6 crore under the PMJJBY and 10.96 crore under PMSBY.

Speaking at the same conference, Niti Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar said financial inclusion helped in giving a digital push to the economy, bringing it into the mainstream.

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  1. R
    Reader
    Oct 7, 2017 at 10:12 pm
    A centralized and inter-linked biometric database like Aadhaar will lead to profiling and self-censorship, endangering freedom. Personal data gathered under the Aadhaar program is prone to misuse and surveillance. Aadhaar project has created a vulnerability to identi-ty fraud, even identi-ty theft. Easy harvesting of biometrics traits and publicly-available Aadhaar numbers increase the risk of impersonation, especially online and banking fraud. Centralized databases can be hacked. Biometrics can be cloned, copied and reused. Thus, BIOMETRICS CAN BE FAKED. High-resolution cameras can capture your fingerprints and iris information from a distance. Every eye hospital will have iris images of its patients. So another person can clone your fingerprints and iris images without your knowledge, and the same can be used for authentication. If the Aadhaar scheme is NOT STOPPED by the Supreme Court, the biometric features of Indians will soon be cloned, misused, and even traded.
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    1. R
      Reader
      Oct 1, 2017 at 11:37 am
      A centralized and inter-linked biometric database like Aadhaar will lead to profiling and self-censorship, endangering freedom. Personal data gathered under the Aadhaar program is prone to misuse and surveillance. A centralized and interlinked database can lead to commercial abuse. Aadhaar project has created a vulnerability to identi-ty fraud, even identi-ty theft. Easy harvesting of biometrics traits and publicly-available Aadhaar numbers increase the risk of impersonation, especially online and banking fraud. Centralized databases can be hacked. Biometrics can be cloned, copied and reused. Thus, biometrics can be faked. High-resolution cameras can capture your fingerprints and iris information from a distance. You can change your password if it is compromised. But if someone gets a copy of your biometric data, which can be used for authentication, what would you do?
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      1. C
        CC
        Sep 14, 2017 at 5:36 pm
        UK’s Biometric ID Database was dismantled. Why the United Kingdom's biometrics-linked National Identi-ty Card project to create a centralized register of sensitive information about residents similar to Aadhaar was scrapped in 2010?? The reasons were the massive threat posed to the privacy of people, the possibility of a surveillance state, the dangers of maintaining such a huge centralized repository of sensitive information, and the purposes it could be used for, and the dangers of such a centralized database being hacked. The other reasons were the unreliability of such a large-scale biometric verification processes, and the ethics of using biometric identification.
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        1. C
          CC
          Sep 14, 2017 at 5:31 pm
          The US Social Security Number (SSN) card has no biometric details, no photograph, no physical description and no birth date. All it does is confirm that a particular number has been issued to a particular name. Instead, a driving license or state ID card is used as an identification for adults. The US government does not collect the biometric details of its own citizens.
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          1. R
            Reader
            Oct 7, 2017 at 10:17 pm
            The US government DOES NOT collect the biometric details of its own citizens for the purpose of issuing Social Security Number. The US collects the fingerprints of only those citizens who are involved in any criminal activity (it has nothing to do with SSN), and the citizens of other countries who come to the US.
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          2. R
            Raj
            Sep 14, 2017 at 11:55 am
            Why does'nt this jerk understand that there is a difference between making aadhar secure v/s mandatory. The issue is that there are people who may wish to enroll in aadhar v/s others who do not want to. If a person does'nt want to avail of government benefits , why does he have to be forced ?
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