In an astonishing charge, the Unique Identification Authority of India said in Supreme Court that search giant Google and some other smart card firms were against the success of Aadhaar programme in India. The big claims made by UIDAI suggest that Google, in addition to other smart card making firms, has opposed the successful operation of Aadhaar in India as the emergence of Aadhaar as an effective identity authentication tool could put harm their business.
Representing UIDAI before a CJI-headed constitution bench, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi told the apex court that smart cards have entrenched interests in Europe. “If the Indian experiment succeeds, smart cards will be in danger in the European Union… Singapore is already moving to biometric-based identity,” Dwivedi was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
UIDAI further justified opening up the Aadhaar platform for private players, citing examples of several sectors where private players were allowed to enter were previously exclusive to the public sector. The UIDAI said that in these sectors too, the entities were subject to laws and regulation as stipulated under the law.
Dwivedi said that some day the court will have to consider the possibility of allowing private entities – however, he added that he is not urging it happen ‘right now’. “For the present, it is enough for me to say all these requesting entities are controllable. They are bound by the law,” he said. He also referred to the mandamus issued against the private players when they perform a service, pertaining to the public sector, without going extensively active.
The questions over the data of Indian citizens were also raised by the court in the wake of the recent Cambridge Analytica row. “The data of individual available today can be used to influence elections…So the question is, what are the safeguards we need to introduce to ensure the object of the Act is met,” asked the court – to which Dwivedi said that the two cannot be compared as Aadhaar does not have the “kind of data” that Google and Facebook do.
Dwivedi further referred to some petitions likening the Aadhaar programme with the Adolf Hitler’s regime of numbering people in his reign. He said that the numbering system in Hitler’s regime segregated Jews from the lot, which is not a basis of Aadhaar as it does not collect information on a citizen’s religion or race. He added that Aadhaar is “not panacea for all evils” and there will be crimes based on it, which will need to be faced, the IE report added.