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Just an ID, not a surveillance tool says Nilekani on Aadhaar

By Anuj Cariappa

Bengaluru, Apr 23: Infosys co-founder and former Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman Nandan Nilekani said Aadhaar did not qualify as a tool for surveillance and privacy and it was just an ID.

File photo of Nandan Nilekani

Defending Aadhaar, the Infosys co-founder said it never collected data on individual.

"It (Aadhaar) is a much simpler system because the privacy problem becomes more acute when there is an organisation collecting data on you. Aadhaar was never collecting data on you.

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All that Aadhaar was doing was giving an ID and doing verification. So, it is not really a great candidate for this (surveillance)," Nilekani said.

According to him, privacy is different from surveillance.

"...Especially privacy is used in the market sense where a business is not too much about you and, therefore, you can commercialise it," Nilekani said during an interactive session at the national executive committee meeting of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries here.

Elaborating further, Nilekani said surveillance was more a state concern, in which state knows too much about the individuals and then uses it.

After his lecture was over, someone from the audience sought to know how real is the threat of people losing their identity and details becoming known to the world.

Replying to the question, Nilekani said surveillance should be a matter of concern.

However, it is not just Aadhaar but a host of things, he pointed out.

'There's an orchestrated campaign to malign Aadhaar,' says Nilekani

In this context, Nilekani said mobile phone qualified on keeping a tab on any individuals privacy because it is with people round the clock and listens to every conversation.

Acknowledging the concern that if Aadhaar becomes ubiquitous, used in multiple applications and then somebody combines them, Nilekani said the important feature of the ID system is that private firms cannot store the Aadhaar number.

He, however, welcomed the debate on Aadhaar as it led to the fundamental question whether Indians have the fundamental rights to privacy or not and the matter went to the Supreme Court.

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