The privacy of individual data has been a major concern in India. Over the years, there have been numerous incidents of govt websites data being hacked and put on sale to private buyers.
Now, in one of its own kind of instance, the Indian government has been selling vehicle owners data to earn revenue since March 2019.
The revenue collected by the government by providing access to VAHAN, a website that deals with vehicle registrations and SARATHI, a website that deals with drivers’ licenses database are Rupees 65 crores till date, said Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways, while giving a response to Congress MP Husain Dalwai questions in Rajya Sabha on July 8.
The Centralized National Registry for transport, maintained by this ministry through National Informatics Centre (NIC) comprises approximately 25 crore vehicle registration records and approximately 15 crore driving licence records, Gadkari added.
The information details like the residential address, email ID and even phone numbers have been shared by the government.
It has provided access to 32 government entities and 87 private entities. The minister in reply said that the firm seeking bulk data can also obtain the data at Rs 3 crore from FY 2019-20. The educational institutions can obtain the data only for research purposes and for internal use only and are provided the bulk data one time on payment of an amount of Rs 5 lakh.
Though, Gadkari did not provide any details on the use of the data by private companies.
Data privacy has been a big concern in India. Despite the Supreme Court declaring data privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21, the country does not have proper data protection law in place.
This is a brazen violation of informational privacy of vehicle-owning citizens, said Prasanna S, a lawyer dealing with the right to privacy cases, to the Quint.
Meanwhile, in the first week of July, the Economic Survey had suggested that citizens data be monetised for the public good.
“Data ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’ must, therefore, become the mantra of the government, chief economic adviser Krishnamurthy V Subramanian had outlined.
It emphasized further it is very important to consider the privacy implications and inherent fairness of data being used.
The survey is at present a mere suggestion. There are currently two bills related to data privacy and the right to data are pending in parliament. It would be a violation of these bills if the Economic Survey proposal were to be implemented.
There are also concerns regarding the survey end up being privatizing public good. The Economic Survey has mentioned that data can be sold after making them anonymous. However, industry observers find it as a vague idea as it would pose challenges in marking for identification.
And if data is sold to a single private firm then no other firms would be able to access the data.
How would, in that case, it be of public good?
There are a series of questions, which the government needs to answer, to justify its act of selling vehicle owners data.