- Why in news?
- What have the Courts said?
- Cyberspace and its growing threat
- Advantages of linking the social media with Aadhaar
- Why the social media accounts should not be linked with Aadhaar?
- Challenges in linking the Aadhaar with social media
- How the central government is tackling the cyber threats?
Should Aadhaar link to social media accounts?
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Why in news?
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.
- In the process to keep a check on the spread of fake news, pornographic and anti-national content, among other things, the Tamil Nadu government told the Supreme Court that social media profiles of users should be linked with their Aadhaar numbers.
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.
Cyberspace and its growing threat
- In India, it is not practical to restrict cyberspace by or within any geography as like North Korea and China.
- 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.
- Issue of cyber security and data privacy of Indian citizens is high. There are many cases when customer data from big and small companies have been hacked into and compromised including Facebook, Google, financial and health data etc.
Advantages of linking the social media with Aadhaar
- It would help to check the spread of fake news, hate speech, and other forms of illegal content.
- Once an individual’s actual identity is linked to their online identity, the illegal online content couldimmediately be traced to its source.
Why the social media accounts should not be linked with Aadhaar?
- The social media companies can get personal data of Indian citizens from Aadhaar linking, which, in turn, can facilitate targeted advertising by social media networks.
- Mandatory linking may enable greater fake news instead of combating it as Aadhaar database already contains a significant number of ghost accounts.
- The government can use social media platforms as surveillance tools.
- The absence of a clear redressal mechanisms for consumers in case of a data leak, misuse or hack.
- Indians, who want to avoid Aadhaar linking, can simply create social accounts by reporting themselves as non-resident of India.
- For smaller and marginalised community, it is necessary to stay anonymous for raising their voices in contentious issues as revealing their identity might result in abuse and physical violence.
- Linking of social accounts with Aadhaar will jeopardize the independence and democratic rights of the person.
Challenges in linking the Aadhaar with social media
- Most of the mobile network companies are Indian and they have servers located in India itself. Whereas, Facebook and WhatsApp have their offices in other countries and the government has almost no control over them.
- If different High Courts heard the cases separately and gave conflicting verdicts, citizens’ fundamental rights could be affected.
How the central government is tackling the cyber threats?
- In January, the Ministry for Information and Technology had published draft Rules on regulating intermediaries, seeking responses from the public.
- The intermediaries include telecom service providers, network service providers, Internet service providers, web-hosting service providers, search engines, online payment sites, online auction sites, online market places, and cyber cafes.
- Section 87 of the IT Act gives power to the central government to frame Rules.
- The mandatory linking of Aadhaar to social media accounts is a complex issue fraught with risks of various kinds.
- However, if at all such a move should be considered, then it should be done through an open, consultative procedure, and ultimately, through legislation enacted by Parliament, whose constitutionality can then be reviewed by a court.
- Other option in place of mandatory Aadahar linking could be stringent implementation of verification of phone numbers or using KYC option of linking social media accounts via the traditional physical verification method.
- There is also need to create awareness among the users to stop propagating fake news and encourage the newspapers and TV channel to do fake news checks.