What privacy? 13 crore Aadhaar numbers accessible on government portals
At least 13 crore Aadhaar numbers and 10 crore bank account numbers are readily accessible on government portals, a report claims. The centre for internet and society, in its report, has claimed that Aadhaar numbers with sensitive personal financial information were publicly available on four government portals built to oversee welfare schemes. The report said that the government portals made it easy to access sensitive details, despite it being illegal.
"It is extremely irresponsible on the part of the UIDAI [Unique Identification Authority of India], the sole governing body for this massive project, to turn a blind eye to the lack of standards prescribed for how other bodies shall deal with such data, such cases of massive public disclosures of this data, and the myriad ways in which it may be used for mischief," said Amber Sinha and Srinivas Kodali, the authors of the report.
Apart from accessing a person's details, the portals made it possible for anyone to get data on beneficiaries of welfare schemes. In many cases, it included bank account numbers of beneficiaries. The report suggests that close to 23 crore Aadhaar number could have been leaked if most of the government portals connected to direct benefit transfers used the 'same negligent standards for storing data as the ones examined'.
"The document shows that the breaches are an indicator of potentially irreversible privacy harm and the data could be used for financial fraud," the authors said in the report. The report was documented after authors studied the National Social Assistance Programme, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Andhra Pradesh government's Chandranna Bima Scheme and Andhra Pradesh's Daily Online Payment Reports of NREGA.
The report said that sensitive personal identity information such as Aadhaar number, caste, religion, address, photographs and financial information were easily available with a few clicks and suggested how poorly conceived these initiatives were. The report highlights that it was illegal to make personal data public and also refers to # #AadhaarLeaks, a campaign on twitter aimed at exposing the loopholes in the Aadhaar system.