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You are not bound to share Aadhaar data with schools, banks & telcos
DNA, July 9, 2019

Citizens can no longer be forced to share their Aadhaar as proof of identity, or for opening a bank account or a mobile connection, with Parliament clearing an amendment bill that allows voluntary use of the unique identification number.

The bill provides for a stiff Rs 1 crore penalty and a jail term for private companies violating provisions on Aadhaar data. It also gives the option to children to exit from the biometric ID programme on attaining 18 years of age.

The decision is expected to put an end to indiscriminate demand for Aadhaar by several agencies under the guise of KYC. Even schools cannot seek the 12-digit number for admissions.

The bill allows 'offline verification' of a person's identity, without authentication, through modes specified by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues Aadhaar. During offline verification, an agency must obtain the consent of the individual, inform of alternatives to sharing information, and not collect, use or store Aadhaar number or biometric information.

Tightening the disclosure norms, the amended Aadhaar Act instead of a district court allows disclosure of Aadhaar-related confidential information only on the orders of high courts or the Supreme Court. Similarly, instead of a joint secretary now only an officer, not below the rank of a secretary, can issue directions for disclosing information in the interest of national security.

Giving people more options for complaint redressal, the amended Act allows an individual to register complaints in certain cases, including impersonation or disclosure of their identity. Earlier courts could take cognisance of an offence only if the UIDAI registered a complaint.

Last year, hearing a batch of petitions that had opposed Aadhaar on the grounds that it breached their privacy, the Supreme Court had struck down Section 57 of the Act as "unconstitutional". The court, however, had disagreed with the contention that Aadhaar would turn the country into a surveillance state. Over 100 crore Indians have been issued Aadhaar so far.

Asserting that the 256-bit encryption of Aadhaar ensures its full safety and security, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Monday that only the name, gender and address are visible on the Aadhaar and that core biometrics is never shared. He said the unique id. has eliminated 2.98 bogus ration cards and helped the government save over Rs 1 lakh crore.

Purely Personal

• No person to be denied any service for not having Aadhaar

• Children can opt out of Aadhaar on becoming adults

• Personal data can be disclosed only after SC/HC order

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