NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday wondered why citizens could not share data with state they were ready to share data with private players like Apple to access devices. It also delved on up to what extent can citizens assert their right to be anonymous on grounds of privacy.
“If 99% of citizens are unconcerned about sharing personal data with private players like Apple, how is it different if the state has the same information?” Justice DY Chandrachud asked the petitioners who challenged the Aadhaar scheme stating that it was a violation of citizens right to privacy.
The hearing continued for the second consecutive day before the nine-judge Bench discussing at length the status and contours of right to privacy. Justice Chandrachud went on to cite the example as to how if an individual books a train ticket, emails or ads pop up offering alternative flights for the same travel and said, “Your data is public and all your information is in private hands. So what is the difference if the state maintains the same data?”
Senior advocate Sajjan Poovayya, who was appearing for one of the petitioners told the Bench: “Right to privacy does not stand on the pedestal of secrecy, it is also the pedestal of dignity. So the state cannot shy away with its responsibility to protect a citizen’s dignity and privacy just because the citizen is unconcerned.” “Secrecy is never a prerequisite for privacy. For example, those who disclose certain personal details to banks need not presume that the same will be disclosed by banks to other persons for other purposes,” Poovayya said.
He went on to compare India and US in terms of population, tele density and Internet penetration and said, “India is much ahead of US in broadband and mobile connection count.”
“But if the state collects information on suspicion of terrorism, is it also a violation of privacy?” Justice Chandrachud questioned. “It can only be done by a fair and just law to procure warrants, not without that,” Poovayya argued. Justice Chelameshwar then asked, “If the problem is of collection of data or its use, then where does the violation occur?”
“Unlimited power of the government to collect, assemble and profile my data chills us,” Poovayya argued, while referring to the fact that over 100 crore people have already parted with their biometric details for Aadhaar cards and initially the exercise was done through private contractors and agencies.
Poovayya also said, “If the state did not have the technology to protect the data it was collecting, it should not collect it in the first place.” He cited the instance of UK destroying the electronic data it had collected from citizens as it did not have the technology to protect it.