The Telangana government will soon create a unified database of citizens, which will contain all the data collected by different government departments.

According to a report in The Hindu, which first reported the development, the unified database will facilitate revival of data which the state has already collected from the individuals — such as Aadhaar, PAN, Voter ID, Ration card, drivers’ license and so on. Telangana Chief Secretary S.K.Joshi suggested that there should be a common database from which any government department could retrieve the information related to a citizen, said official sources. The database is designed to integrate different forms of data and personally identifiable documents produced by the government in one place. The state planning department proposed to have the unified database within three months.

Such a database is a natural extension of the information government services already collect from citizens, and putting them in one place and coordinating them makes sense from the point of view of better administration. However, this comes with a significant privacy and security risk to citizens – especially when the accountability on who can access what information, and for what purposes, is not clear. This is, however, not Telangana’s first attempt to build a comprehensive profile of its citizens.

Telangana’s experiments with citizens’ database

In 2017, the Hyderabad police built its own central database — ‘Integrated People Information Hub’ (IPIH) which offers a “360-degree view” of citizens, according to then police commissioner M. Mahender Reddy as reported in Telangana Today. The database sources its data from police records including information on arrested persons, offenders list, missing person reports, FIRs and case diaries etc, and from external sources like phone/power/water connections, tax payments, voter IDs, RTA license, registration data, e-challans, passports and terrorist records among others. The IPIH integrated data from Enterprise E Cops Data (CCTNS), RTA for Telangana, voter data for Telangana, Samagra Kutumba Survey data, and much more.

Hyderabad’s police commissioner announced that the IPIH project has been transferred to the IT department after the initial tender was released. Both the commissioner and a senior IT department official assured the access to data is highly restricted, but is being used for better service delivery and detecting fraud.

Another massive effort at integrating citizen data was made in 2014. Soon after the bifurcation of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, the newly-formed Telangana state government conducted the state-wide ‘Samagra Kutumba Survey‘ or Intensive Household Survey; it covered all households in Telangana in a single day, recording 94 major parameters from residents, according to Telangana Today.

In December 2017, the state government launched an Android mobile app for the survey, strangely enough, for officials at various levels such as village, mandal, district, constituency and State level to have access to survey data. A report from a few days after the mobile app launch clarifies that all government officials do not have access to the survey data, only a few of them had access to limited data — details of mandals, villages and population, and facilities available, and not personal data of individuals.