Terming Aadhaar akin to a mass surveillance system, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden warned Indian citizens that it will trap them through systemisation.
Mass surveillance system would look like Aadhaar as it creates systemisation of society. And it is something that is not stated in the scheme of things for the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Snowden said at the fifth edition of ‘Talk Journalism’ event.
He said privacy is something that every citizen is entitled to and should not be given away.
In 2013, Snowden famously copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA). He revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments.
His disclosure led debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy.
What is concerning for Indian citizens, according to Snowden, it is being used for things unrelated to what the government is claiming they are for.
He further added that the recent controversy around UIDAI helpline number added in contact lists is kind of mysterious and something akin to surveillance.
Mandatory use of Aadhaar can lead to being tracked, monitored and recorded in a hundred different ways. Not only by UIDAI, but other firms involved in it. There is only one way to prevent this is to reform this system before it goes bad, Snowden said.
The govt must ensure criminal penalty on anyone misusing the data. It should ensure that Aadhaar is for the benefit not for mass surveillance.
There should be criminal penalties assigned to any company that asks for your Aadhaar number for a service that the government is not paying for, that is not directly funded for a social benefit. They should be sent to jail.
However, the govt, time and again has emphasised that Aadhaar is safe despite many cases of leaks.
Last month, TRAI Chairman RS Sharma had shared his Aadhaar number taking up a challenge from a micro-blogging site user claiming Aadhaar is harmless.
Bill Gates also had praised the Aadhaar system. He said the 12-digit data system prevents you from collecting things that you shouldn’t collect or accessing a health record you shouldn’t have access to.
Recently, govt linked children in shelter homes with Aadhaar to track them. According to the UIDAI, Maharashtra’s total projected population of 12,08,37,347, around 11,19,80,383 or 92.7% have been assigned Aadhaar numbers as of June-end.