TIL: We have no guaranteed right to privacy

I know this, because Arun Jaitley says so, in course of the ongoing debate in the Rajya Sabha about the Aadhaar bill.

This statement, and the larger theme of privacy, is apt to grow legs in the coming days and weeks. Meanwhile, follow the debate — there are many important points being made. And if you have no access to TV, check out this Twitter stream. (The associated website, a work in progress, is also a useful bookmark).

We are, meanwhile, approaching the second anniversary of this very valid remark:

Not a “gotcha” — the point is, the concerns being voiced now are the concerns that were voiced back then. Which raises the question: Why is a project that all agree is riddled with concerns being sought to be shoe-horned into the books, in the guise of a money bill?

Boring but important: Aadhaar and privacy

Scroll reports on a private company that, even as Parliament debated the Aadhaar bill, advertised its ability to mine your data — and to make it available to anyone, for a price.

Read the story. Then go back and read this bit, slowly. Consider the implications. Weep.

Very little was heard about the interest private companies would have in this information data base. It is not until the 2016 Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha that we were told, expressly, that just about any person or company may draw on the Aadhaar system for its purposes. There are no qualifications or limits on who may use it and why. It depends on the willingness of the Unique Identification Author of India, which is undertaking the project, to let them become a part of the Aadhaar system.

Aadhaar, then and now

On the stump, Narendra Modi had repeatedly excoriated the Aadhaar scheme as a massive fraud perpetrated by then UPA government. Dismiss that as part of the usual cut and thrust of electoral politics. In 2013, an incensed Arun Jaitley had, in a widely circulated article on governmental spying, called out a far more pressing concern:

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