History has shown that no matter what the laws are, the result is always abuse, said former US National Security Agency contractor and American whistleblower Edward Snowden on Friday while commenting on the Indian government’s Aadhaar programme.
Snowden’s comments came after journalist Zack Whittaker of the CBS on Thursday shared a Buzzfeed News story on a report published by Chandigarh’s The Tribune about a breach of the Aadhaar system. In a report titled “Rs 500, 10 minutes, and you have access to billion Aadhaar details” published on Wednesday, The Tribune had claimed to have bought “a service being offered by anonymous sellers over WhatsApp” for unrestricted access to details of the more than 1 billion Aadhaar holders.
In its response, the Unique Identification Authority of India said the case reported by The Tribune seemed to be one of “misuse” of this facility, and that it would take legal action against those found involved and file an FIR as well.
While sharing the story on Twitter, Whittaker said, “India has a national ID database with the private information of nearly 1.2 billion nationals. It’s reportedly been breached. Admin accounts can be made and access can be sold to the database.”
Snowden shared the journalist’s tweet saying it was the “natural tendency” of a government to desire the perfect records of private lives.
Snowden left the United States in 2013 after he leaked details of a secret government programme on global surveillance. He now faces espionage and theft charges in the US that can earn him a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. Later that year, he was granted asylum in Russia for three years and still lives there in an undisclosed location.
A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court is set to begin the final hearing of petitions challenging the legality of Aadhaar programme based on privacy concerns on January 17. In a landmark ruling in August 2017, the Supreme Court had declared privacy a fundamental right protected under Article 21 of the Constitution.
This was seen as a major blow to the Centre’s push for Aadhaar. With the privacy question out of the way, the court resumed hearing the petitions in the last week of November.