After many months, we now see the true colors of the Unique Identity (UID) number that Nilekani is so keen to foist on the Indian public. At a function organized by the Indo American Chamber of Commerce, he admitted that the real motivation for the UID was to track people. He also said that in time, if someone didn’t have a UID, that would in itself be suspicious.
Long ago, it was feared that the UID will be used for mass surveillance. Nilekani goes so far as to say that all hotels might be required to demand a UID from those who stay there – not for purposes of credit or to ensure payment, but simply so that the government will be able to keep track of who is where.
Image Credit: Aquila
The obvious question is, where will this stop? If hotels demand a UID before you can stay in them, will it be long before a theater asks for it before you can watch a movie? Even worse, can a policeman randomly stop you on the road and ask for it as well? This isn’t the same as being asked for a driver’s license since not everyone should be allowed to drive if they’re not qualified. But asking for an ID “just to check up on you” is an invasion of privacy. However, since privacy is a legal right in India, I wonder how such procedures would stand up in court.
To assume that the government won’t become more and more intrusive if it has the ability is stupid. Whenever governments get too much power, disaster ensues. We can rest assured that slowly, bit by bit, the uses of this UID will continue to increase and become more and more pervasive if technologically feasible. Most of us still don’t realize how much the loss of privacy will hurt. They will learn once they do lose it. In that way, this whole experiment is a good thing. It’ll be painful, but it might just be the start of an experience that will teach us the value of what we take for granted in a free country like India.