[Excerpt] Aadhaar’s vast database of biometric information is another pillar of India’s national security state. India is currently engaged in technological projects of astonishing dimensions, a colossally wide array of information collection, communications monitoring, and identity profiling. Biometrics have long been associated with biopower, a Foucauldian concept that is being frequently revisited as the world negotiates pervasive surveillance. The Aadhaar project is a new frontier in biopower: unparalleled in scale and unchecked by law, it is obliterating privacy.
In late September 2015, the Indian government published an ill-conceived and poorly drafted national encryption policy which would have had severely detrimental impacts on privacy, freedom of speech, national security, foreign investment, and the regular business of the telecommunications and Internet industry in India. After public uproar and international ridicule, the policy was withdrawn on the eve of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley to invite investment in his Digital India project. This post simply breaks down encryption and examines the motives and implications of the policy. Click the title to read more.
[Excerpt] Because of its disjointed development, the constitutional basis of the right to privacy in India remains muddy. Indian courts have yet to craft a privacy rights jurisprudence that responds to surveillance, morals-based denials of personal choices, and forcible collections of bodily information. There are wide gaps in the right to privacy through which the collection of biometric information for the Aadhar project could easily slip through, perhaps even be made compulsory.
[Summary] Because privacy enjoys an abundance of meanings, it is claimed in diverse situations every day by everyone against other people, society, and the state. Traditionally traced to classical liberalism’s public/private divide, there are now several theoretical conceptions of privacy that collaborate and sometimes contend. Indian privacy law is evolving in response to four types of privacy claims: against the press, against state surveillance, for decisional autonomy, and in relation to personal information. The Indian Supreme Court has selectively borrowed competing foreign privacy norms, primarily American, to create an unconvincing pastiche of privacy law in India. These developments are undermined by a lack of theoretical clarity and the continuing tension between individual freedoms and communitarian values.
On 20 August 2014, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta spoke to me about privacy and surveillance law in India on Lok Sabha Television (LS TV). The Lok Sabha is the lower house of India’s parliament, and LS TV is the state parliamentary broadcaster. The discussion covered constructions of privacy norms, defences to privacy, the Aadhar card scheme – India’s biometric identification project, telephone and Internet surveillance, wiretaps, the identity of rape survivors, DNA collection for family disputes, ‘sting’ journalism, the harm principle, and free speech.