Aadhaar sued for data leaks

A two-judge bench headed by Justice S Ravindra Bhat of Delhi High Court has asked the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is providing digital ID to over a billion Indians based on their biometrics, to submit a written response to the petition filed by a law professor.

The government has collected biometric and demographic details of over 1.1 billion people to assign a unique 12 digit identification code called ’Aadhaar’ number to its residents.

In his petition, Shamnad Basheer has urged the court to form an expert panel to investigate and quantify financial damages due to the data leak. Basheer in his petition said, "The inability of respondent to secure the identity information of Aadhaaris, including that of the petitioner, has resulted in a serious and egregious violation of the fundamental right to privacy and dignity."

The Delhi High Court has agreed to hear a plea seeking damages from the operator of the world’s largest biometric database for alleged failure to adopt adequate security measures that led to data leaks. UIDAI has six weeks to reply and the Delhi High Court will hear the case on November 19.

The government has been claiming that the data is protected with measures including 13-feet high walls, but reports of leaks have raised concerned over the security of the database that is utilised for services from bank accounts to gas connections. The authority claims its protection measures are foolproof and the program has helped the government bring transparency and save billions of rupees in the disbursement of social sector benefits to poor.

The Supreme Court had last year ruled that privacy is an inalienable fundamental right and is expected to give a ruling on the legal validity of Aadhaar program in coming months. Lawyers and activists had challenged the database’s validity claiming it violates citizens’ privacy and lays a design for the surveillance state. The government had denied the claims in the top court.