New Delhi, March 31, 2017

A letter written by the government confirms the data has been leaked online

How safe are your biometric data? With Aadhaar, you have given your fingerprints and iris scans to the government. This clearly gives an individual a 'unique' identity. But what if the details of your Aadhaar get leaked? In the recent past, there have been several cases of UID data being compromised with. While the government has constantly denied any possibility of a compromise, The New Indian Express published on Friday a report on how the NDA government has acknowledged that personal identity of individuals, including Aadhaar number and other sensitive information, has been leaked to the public domain.

A letter written by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, which the Express claims to have accessed, confirms that data, which the government has been cautiously guarding, has been leaked online. “There have been instances wherein personal identity or information of residents, including Aadhaar number and demographic information and other sensitive personal data such as bank account details etc. collected by various Ministries/Departments... has been reportedly published online and is accessible through an easy online search,” Archana Dureja, a scientist in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, wrote on March 25.

The official went on to add that the leak of data was a serious and punishable offence.

“Publishing information like Aadhaar number along with name, date of birth, address etc. is a clear contravention of provisions of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 and is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years,” the letter said.

“The offending parties are liable to pay damages in the form of compensation to persons affected.” The official, through her letter, also directed ministries and states to discontinue any such content with immediate effect.

Modi government in denial of potential threat posed by Aadhaar Card?

Ironically, on Wednesday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley defended the mandatory use of Aadhaar amid the Opposition’s concern over privacy and data security.

After his predecessor, P Chidambaram, raised the fiasco related to former cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Aadhaar details being leaked, Jaitley replied, “It was a case of an immature behaviour and the company has been blacklisted for 10 years.

“If the firewalls can be broken and hacking can take place, then hacking will take place anywhere. It is not a ground that hacking takes place only because Aadhaar is there,” Jaitley argued, replying on the finance bill debate in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

The finance minister told the Rajya Sabha that the government feels there is no harm in expanding the usage of Aadhaar. “The fact that technologies can be breached is no argument to not use Aadhaar,” he said.

“Aadhaar was an instrument to service. It was never intended to tag it to income tax and bank accounts. Remember, Pentagon has been hacked. What is the guarantee you have to stop hacking of bank accounts and Aadhaar accounts?” Chidambaram asked.

Jaitley maintained that the only way to prevent hacking is to strengthen the firewalls. “Technology always is a learning experience,” he added.

On March 5 the Ministry of Electronics and IT issued a statement assuring that personal data of individuals held by UIDAI is fully safe and secure.

With over a billion Indians possessing an Aadhaar card in 2017, data theft issue can turn into a mammoth crisis for Modi government that has been aggressively pushing for its adoption across services and platforms and for the citizens who have linked their bank accounts and other sensitive information with it.

[The Business Standard]