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linking of Aadhaar with social media

Context: From January, the Supreme Court will hear cases seeking the linking of Aadhaar with social media profiles of individuals. It will be the first big legal battle on the right to privacy after the Supreme Court held in a landmark verdict in 2017 that privacy is a fundamental right.

Need for linking of Aadhar?

  1. To keep a check on the spread of fake news, pornographic and anti-national content, among other things.
  2. The government has referred to the Blue Whale game, the online suicide challenge that has reportedly claimed hundreds of deaths in countries like Russia and India.
  3. In the case of the Blue Whale challenge, the government found it hard to trace the originator of the online content.

Opposition to this move:

  1. Social media platforms like Facebook have been fighting this move to link user profiles with Aadhaar as they believe it would violate the users’ privacy policy.
  2. Facebook has also defended itself, saying that it cannot share the 12-digit Aadhaar number on WhatsApp as it is end-to-end encrypted, even for Facebook.
  3. If the apex court rules in favour of Aadhaar linking with social media accounts, it would end private communications and experts believe this could also allow the government to use social media platforms as surveillance tools.

What have the Courts said?

The Supreme Court said on August 20, 2019, that there is a need to find a balance between the right to online privacy and the right of the state to trace the origins of hateful messages and fake news.

On August 21, the Madras High Court dismissed the original prayer to link Aadhaar to social media accounts as it violated the Supreme Court’s judgment on Aadhaar.

Why this may not be the right move?

Cyberspace is like an ocean — endless and limitless — and we just cannot restrict it by or within any geography. There is no Indian internet as such.

Since Aadhaar has almost all information related to our bank accounts it is better to avoid treading that path.

Also, a social media account is a private account of a person — it necessarily does not have to be linked to a government database just for the sake of privacy.

Linking with Aadhaar will be jeopardizing the independence and democratic rights of the person for one never knows know that data may be misused by the companies or the government of the day.

What can be done?

  1. Phone verification: Most of the folks and younger generation use social media from their phones. There are already norms that every phone number needs to be verified — the need of the hour is to get them implemented more stringently on the ground.
  2. Another way is KYC option of linking social media accounts via the traditional physical verification option or through the references options.
  3. There is also a big need to create awareness among the users to stop propagating fake news and verify the news because in the long run an educated consumer of news is the best antidote to fake news.

Way ahead:

As a country, we must focus on investing on research to develop the technology to save our virtual space and not open our data for any misuse. 

Current Affairs 2020

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