Will a number be my unique identity?
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