The Income Tax department will share the data of taxpayers who earn over Rs 10 lakh per year with the Petroleum and Oil Ministry, to curb abuse of subsidised cooking gas, reports the Economic Times. The move has been approved by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).
The I-T department will sign a Memorandum of Understanding for this with the Oil Ministry for confidentiality and safety of the data, post which data will be transferred. The tax department will share the names, PAN details, date of birth, gender, all available addresses at the IT database, email id and the phone numbers of such taxpayers, after which the subsidies will be likely ceased.
However, it’s not quite clear why so much data has to be shared to disable subsidies. Hypothetically, some of these factors like addresses, should be enough to ensure these users do not get subsidies. We feel sharing the date of birth, gender, email addresses and phone numbers is quite excessive. It’s also not clear if the MoU to be signed will lay down guidelines on how to handle and secure data, rather than leaving it to each independent agency on how to handle it. Additionally, there is no clarity on who will be held accountable on this data being breached or compromised in anyway.
It is fair that government agencies share data with each other, like for cybercrime, but they should be accountable for what data is being shared and to what end. India already has agencies like NATGRID and CMS that share data across agencies with the purpose of curbing terrorism, although it could also be used to target people who might be against the government. That said, it remains to be seen how effective these data sharing initiatives will be.