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'Govt committed to protecting citizens' right to privacy'

Govt committed to protecting citizens right to privacy

New Delhi: The government is committed to protecting the fundamental right of its citizens to privacy and reports of surveillance of citizens are completely misleading, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

Replying to a query on safety of citizen's data during Question Hour, the Electronics and IT minister said the government operates strictly according to provisions of law and laid down protocol.

"There are adequate safeguards to ensure that no innocent citizen is harassed or his or her privacy breached... The government is committed to protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, including the right to privacy," he said.

Prasad said that are media reports about UK-based research firm Comparitech highlighting that India ranks behind only Russia and China when it comes to surveillance of citizens.

"From the media reports, the basis on which such a conclusion is drawn, appears flimsy and questionable. Absence of data protection bill and a data protection authority as regulator has been cited but there are suitable provisions under the IT Act and work is in progress to bring in a law for data protection," he said.

Another factor cited is that, The Aadhaar Identification Scheme gives citizens a unique ID number and is also home to the largest biometric database, which contains details of 1.23 billion people, he said, adding that it is a baseless assumption that the Aadhaar database includes information such as purchases, bank accounts, insurance etc.

Prasad said the government's request to WhatsApp regarding traceability without compromising on encryption has been wrongly projected as a possible privacy intrusion.

He said though the report recognises that the laws and courts in India are working to protect data privacy, it seems to have jumped to a conclusion without looking at the legal regime in India and the checks and balances available.

"These attempts to malign the government of India for reportedly surveilling citizens are completely misleading," he said.

According to Prasad, said his ministry is working on the Personal Data Protection Bill to safeguard the privacy of citizens, which it proposes to table in Parliament.

Denying any instance of data breach from Aadhaar database, he said for security of Aadhaar data centres, UIDAI has a well-designed, multi-layer robust security system in place and it is being constantly upgraded to maintain the highest level of data security

and integrity.



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