Aadhaar data leak can impact election outcome, says Supreme Court

New Delhi: A leak of Aadhaar data can impact the outcome of an election, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday, voicing its concerns amid the raging controversy over the illegal use of Facebook data in the US elections. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, hearing a clutch of petitions challenging Aadhaar and the enabling 2016 law, referred to the Cambridge Analytica controversy and said these are not “imaginary apprehensions” and, in the absence of robust data protection law, the issue of misuse of information becomes relevant.

‘‘The real apprehension is that elections are swayed using data analytics. These problems are symptomatic of the world we live in,” the bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, said.”Please do not bring Cambridge Analytica into this. The UIDAI simply does not have the learning algorithms like Facebook or Google to analyse details of users,” senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the Gujarat government, said.

The bench, which posed several searching questions, asked the lawyer why the authorities were allowing private entities to use the Aadhaar platform for various purposes and referred to the legal provision to this effect.The Aadhaar authority, which has been under immense pressure since the first reports of data leak surfaced last year, hinted at a conspiracy theory. Senior advocate Dwivedi, who is representing UIDAI, said the petitioners have argued that smart card is better than Aadhaar. “They want smart card because institutions like Google don’t want Aadhaar to succeed,” he said.Dwivedi also dealt with the persistent allegation that the people were being given a number identity as was done by dictator Adolf Hitler in Germany.”Hitler counted citizens to identify Jews, Christians etc. Here, we do not seek details like caste, creed and religion from the citizens,” he said, adding that the history of numbers began in India and “numbers are beautiful and fascinating”.He also urged the bench not to give in to the “hyper phobia” against the Aadhaar created by the petitioners opposed to the “inclusive scheme” of the government based on a law and the proper infrastructure.

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