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BJP rep files PIL seeking to link social media accounts with Aadhaar

Ashwini Upadhyay, a BJP representative in Delhi, has filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court asking that the government ascertain the feasibility of linking Aadhaar with social media accounts to curb fake news, the Economic Times reported. Alternatively, the petition said, the government could take steps to deactivate bogus accounts. It claimed that there are currently 35 million Twitter accounts and 325 million Facebook accounts in the country, and that 10% of these are “fake” according to “social media experts”.

How this could be implemented in anybody’s guess. For one, it raises huge privacy concerns, not to mention logistical issues. Secondly, how secure is Aadhaar data itself? Earlier this month a special investigation team (SIT) probing the IT Grids case found that the company’s hard disks had Aadhaar records of at least 9 crore people from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Punjab. Also, Twitter – unlike Facebook – allows users to set up accounts without providing their real name, so it would be wrong to treat all anonymous accounts as ‘fake’.

Govt mooted Aadhaar linkage ‘to combat trolls’

In early April ET reported that the government was looking into making it mandatory for people to link their social media accounts with phone numbers or official government IDs such as Aadhaar cards and passports as a way to combat online trolls. To safeguard privacy the data would stay with the intermediary (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and law enforcement agencies would seek account details only when a crime took place or if there was a complaint of harassment, the report said. Here’s what we wrote at the time:

“Anonymity is both a positive and negative attribute of the Internet. Balancing people’s right to privacy online with the need to combat crime and abusive behaviour is a tricky but necessary task for all governments. But making it compulsory to link one’s online accounts with a phone number or government-issued ID would mean the end of privacy online – if it could be implemented in the first place. It hardly takes an expert to know that what the government is proposing would be impractical, expensive and tedious, not to mention frighteningly authoritarian and open to abuse. Which law such a proposal could be accommodated under is also an open question, given the Supreme Court’s strong views on the right to privacy. It would require an amendment to the IT Act. It’s a disproportionate violation of privacy to seek to identify everyone all the time, when you only need to identify some people sometimes.”

Madras High Court called it ‘dangerous’

In November 2018, the Madras High Court was hearing a petition that called for linking people’s online accounts with Aadhaar or other official IDs, and directed Google and YouTube to appear before it. On August 13, the same bench had termed the linking of online accounts with official IDs ‘dangerous’, Business Standard reported. “This is a dangerous relief. It would affect the right to privacy of every individual. If the petitioner faces any such issue, he can very well file a complaint with the police,” the court had said.

Read the full petition on LiveLaw

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