The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) will support and endorse any action towards formulating umbrella legislation on protecting data, according to its chairman Nandan Nilekani.
He hoped that this would help address privacy and security concerns, apart from the safeguards being built into the UID Act itself. The draft legislation for the Act, which will make the UIDAI a statutory body, is in the final stages and will be put in the public domain for feedback and suggestions within the next few days, he added.
Mr. Nilekani was speaking after the first meeting of the Cabinet Committee on UIDAI on Tuesday, which gave in-principle approval for the collection of demographic and biometric attributes of all residents. It was also decided to collect iris data for children between 5 and 15 years. For all those above 15, biometric data would include a picture of the face, all 10 fingerprints, and iris data.
The data collection will be standardised so that all registrars – who will actually do the data collection – can use the same methods. The registrars include the Public Distribution System (PDS), the Rural Development departments which run the NREGA programme, the banks, LIC, oil marketing companies, the Registrar General of India which conducts the census, and the National Population Register.
The registrars are free to collect whatever other information they want, so long as they collect the stipulated demographic and biometric data for UIDAI. Similarly, while UID numbers per se will not be mandatory, other agencies – such as the passport office or banks – may make it mandatory to have a UID number.
“We are just a number issuing and data collecting authority…UIDAI is just the back-end,” said Mr. Nilekani.
He said partner agencies would only be allowed to confirm identity with a “yes or no” query. They would not be allowed to access all the details in the database. However, he admitted that in cases of national security, such safeguards could be bypassed and specific information could be given out.
The first UID numbers will be issued between August 2010 and February 2011, and all 600 million numbers will be issued in the next five years.