20,000 Aadhaar numbers leaked on Punjab govt website, another breach of privacy?

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While Supreme Court is currently in the process of determining whether the Aadhaar programme violates rights to privacy, a Punjab government's website has published the Aadhaar numbers of more than 20,000 people who applied for low-cost housing in Ludhiana. This isn't the first time a government organization has committed such a breach of privacy.

The Greater Ludhiana Area Development Authority (GLADA) had invited applications from economically weaker sections for houses in Ludhiana and Jagraon under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. Then it published the names, fathers' names and Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries chosen.

20,000 Aadhaar numbers leaked on Punjab govt website, another breach of privacy?

By Monday evening, the data had been removed but the PDF files remained online on Tuesday as well.

Aadhaar, a 12-digit identity number, is linked to a person's biometric details and has become increasingly mandatory for government services.

Other such leaks in the past

This alleged leak is a grave cause of concern, especially considering that this is not the first time the government has overlooked individuals' privacy. In April, the Jharkhand Directorate of Social Security published details of 1.6mn beneficiaries of a pension scheme. The same month, the Union Water and Sanitation Department uploaded Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin, on its website.

What does the law say?

Section 29(4) of the Aadhaar Act rules that no Aadhaar number or core biometric information can be published, displayed or posted publicly, except for specified purposes. Under the same act, such violations can be punished by up to three years in prison and other penalties.

UIDAI's defence

According to a report in the month of May 2017, by the Centre, four government websites had made public 13.5 crore Aadhaar numbers, plus 100 million bank account numbers. Individuals' information included addresses, bank details and caste/religion information, among others.

its defence, the UIDAI said, "While Aadhaar numbers are available, the biometric information is not. (They) are in safe custody."

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