Will a num­ber be my unique iden­tity?

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice -

Well, just like many of you, I am yet to get my Aad­haar card and the unique iden­tity num­ber. Yes, the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia is yet to get my retina scan and fin­ger­prints. It is not that I have been lazy to get that unique iden­tity through which the gov­ern­ment data­base will know me inside-out; I am only scep­ti­cal if my very per­sonal de­tails will be safe enough with the han­dlers of that in­for­ma­tion.

My scep­ti­cism about data with gov­ern­ment or quasi gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions started with the MTNL land­line con­nec­tion. Within a week of in­stal­la­tion, I started get­ting calls from ran­dom sales agents sell­ing in­surance, loans and wa­ter fil­ters, or some­one ask­ing for ur­gent char­ity to help a can­cer pa­tient. Well, they know not just my name and ad­dress but even how much I am pay­ing for my In­ter­net con­nec­tion and how of­ten I am on­line.

So, when I get my Aad­haar card and link up my other iden­ti­fy­ing doc­u­ments like driv­ing li­cense, mo­bile num­ber, voter ID num­ber, house ad­dress and even bank ac­count de­tails (to get so-called sub­si­dies and loans), I won­der what the fu­ture shape of stalk­ing will be. Imag­ine a tele­mar­keter calls and says, Hello ma’am. A very happy birth­day since you have turned 50 to­day. Since you do not have much money in your bank to cel­e­brate the same, we have de­cided to give you a spe­cial dis­count on a pizza. And as your mo­bile lo­ca­tion via GPS sug­gests that you are not at your home, but in a nearby park, we will de­liver it right there. We are sure that after re­ceiv­ing this ser­vice, you will not search for our com­peti­tors’ out­lets on the In­ter­net. Also, just a per­sonal ad­vice, ma’am – please pay off the cha­laan that you got for over-speed­ing. It doesn’t suit an in­tel­li­gent per­son like you to dis­obey law. By the way, your pass­port has just got a Sin­ga­pore visa, do visit our out­lets there – we serve In­dian tadka there.

All right, I may be ex­ag­ger­at­ing there. I do un­der­stand that there are pri­vacy-pro­tec­tion poli­cies, etc. But I am also aware of the low­brow ac­tiv­i­ties of mar­keters leav­ing no stone un­turned to iden­tify po­ten­tial buy­ers. Be it an in­surance company, a tele­com ser­vice provider, com­pa­nies sell­ing cars, or candy-mak­ing brands, they all are in con­tin­u­ous pur­suit of max­i­mum in­for­ma­tion on max­i­mum con­sumers. They any­way al­ready know a lot through our so­cial me­dia ac­counts and IP ad­dresses, and once we club all our iden­ti­ties and put them un­der a ‘unique iden­tity num­ber’, a num­ber that can pro­vide the most-sought-after in­for­ma­tion on con­sumers, one can imag­ine the pos­si­bil­i­ties. (Another con­spir­acy the­ory that is do­ing the rounds in closed cir­cles, which I must not talk about, is that Aad­haar will help politi­cians in find­ing and in­flu­enc­ing vot­ers through cus­tom­ized mes­sages as per their pro­files.)

Yes, I agree that we must ac­knowl­edge the ad­van­tages of hav­ing a unique iden­tity. The iden­tity will cer­tainly em­power the down­trod­den masses, help in keep­ing a check on crime and cor­rup­tion, and lead to rel­a­tively ef­fec­tive gov­er­nance, apart from other mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits.

The pur­pose of pen­ning down my ap­pre­hen­sions is to re­quest the Unique Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Au­thor­ity to de­vice a fool-proof mech­a­nism to pro­tect our iden­ti­ties from those who may mis­use it. Since the re­spon­si­bil­ity of cre­at­ing Aad­haar cards is with pri­vate con­trac­tors, the risk of los­ing iden­ti­ties is high. There is all the rea­son to ex­pect that the Aad­haar be­comes an in­di­vid­ual’s strength and not the mar­keter’s tool.

Padma Joint ed­i­tor

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