In light of various Central and state government departments making public Aadhaar information of several users on their websites, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) has written to secretaries of all government departments asking them to sensitise the officials and take precautions while publishing or sharing data on their websites.
“It has come to notice that there have been instances wherein personal identity or information of residents, alongwith Aadhaar numbers and demographic information and other sensitive personal data such as bank details collected by ministries/departments, state departments for administration of welfare schemes etc. have been
published online,” IT secretary Aruna Sundararajan wrote in the letter dated April 24.
“Publishing identity information i.e. Aadhaar number along with demographic information is in clear contravention of the provisions of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 and constitutes an offence punishable with imprisonment up to three years. Further, publishing of financial information including bank details, being sensitive personal data, is also in contravention of provision under IT Act, 2000 with violations liable to pay damages by way of compensation to persons affected,” she noted.
According to media reports, Aadhaar numbers of hundreds of thousands of pension beneficiaries were published on a state government website, and was followed by Chandigarh’s Food and Civil Supplies Department revealing the Aadhaar information of beneficiaries of public distribution system. Following Sundararajan’s letter, various central government ministries have issued advisories to sensitise the officials and the web information managers to comply with the IT Act.
Earlier this month, a report by non-profit organisation The Centre for Internet and Society noted that up to 13.5 crore Aadhaar numbers were exposed and were publicly available on government websites, with about 10 crore of these being linked to bank account details. The 27-paged report — Information Security Practices of Aadhaar (or lack thereof): A documentation of public availability of Aadhaar Numbers with sensitive personal financial information — has collected Aadhaar data from four government portals.
Two of these are national portals: National Social Assistance Programme and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, both under the rural development ministry. The other two studied by the report’s authors, Srinivas Kodali and Amber Sinha, are run by the AP government: a daily online payments report under MGNREGA by the state government, and Chandranna Bima Scheme.
“Based on the numbers available on the websites looked at, the estimated number of Aadhaar numbers leaked through these 4 portals could be around 130-135 million (13-13.5 crore) and the number of bank accounts numbers leaked at around 100 million (10 crore) from the specific portals we looked at,” the report stated.
“It has come to notice that there have been instances wherein…information of residents, alongwith Aadhaar numbers and demographic information…have been published online,” IT secretary Aruna Sundararajan wrote in the letter dated April 24