National ID cards – A threat to privacy

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The Indian Government has long been interested in issuing all citizens a Multipurpose National ID Card (MNIC). While I am certain that this scheme has been introduced with the very best intentions, I am afraid that it will lead to a serious invasion of the privacy of Indian citizens as well as encroach upon other constitutional rights such as the right to freedom of movement.

The government’s official press release of the scheme shows how the card can be used to facilitate many aspects of governance. However, it is the word “Multipurpose” that scares me. What are the restrictions that can be placed on it’s use? The concept of Privacy in India is still in it’s nascence and a card of this sort can come to be a de facto Identity document to “prove” yourself. Especially if it is compulsory to carry it at all times.

National ID cards threat to privacy
National ID cards threat to privacy

The government’s plan to tie all databases together using one card will make it hard to resist the temptation to use the ID card to ask citizens to “prove” who they are. How do you feel about being asked to show your card when you enter a theater, or even when you walk on the road?

Is it possible for a point to come when I will be required to carry my card with me on the streets to “prove myself” to any passing Policeman who chooses to check? We saw earlier how the Supreme Court defined privacy in India and one such definition was “the right to be left alone. This right will inevitably be violated by such actions. In addition, in the Preamble of the Constitution, citizens have the right to a life of dignity. How can dignity possibly be maintained without a right to privacy? Without the right to be “let alone?”

In time, the card will almost certainly come to be more important than the individual. A sort of “stamp” where you are no one without it (almost like the Social Security Number in the US). Unless we protest against the dehumanizing effects of this card, it will come upon us from behind and we’ll never know what hit us.

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34 thoughts on “National ID cards – A threat to privacy”

  1. I have an MNIC card. I have validity up to 2008. It is abeautiful card. It is not like ourAdhar card. It is an eligent card where it is written Republic of India. The card looks like credit card and one should be proud of holding it. You can use it in other countries also as our identity proof. However it seems that Government has stopped issuing this card for the time being.


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