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News18 » Tech
3-min read

Will You Have to Link Your Aadhaar With Facebook, WhatsApp And Twitter Accounts?

The idea was mooted by the Tamil Nadu government and has been challenged by Facebook. The Supreme Court of India is hearing whether the matter can be shifted, after an appeal by Facebook.

Vishal Mathur | @vishalmathur85

Updated:August 20, 2019, 2:10 PM IST
Will You Have to Link Your Aadhaar With Facebook, WhatsApp And Twitter Accounts?
The idea was mooted by the Tamil Nadu government and has been challenged by Facebook. The Supreme Court of India is hearing whether the matter can be shifted, after an appeal by Facebook.

As it turns out, the government wants users to link their social media profiles with their Aadhaar details. This comes after the idea mooted by the Tamil Nadu government has been challenged by Facebook, which owns the popular social networks Facebook and Instagram as well as messaging apps WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Facebook has since moved the Supreme Court of India to transfer the pending petitions to the apex court. The Tamil Nadu government has insisted that this is essential to trace the origin of certain content that is posted online and could be necessary to track the owners of the profiles. The Supreme Court of India has since issued notices to the Government of India, the Commissioner of Police, the State of Tamil Nadu and social network companies including Twitter and Google.

But what really is the argument put forward by the government of the state of Tamil Nadu? They say that the linking of social media accounts with Aadhaar numbers will help in combating and tracking fake news, malicious posts, content that poses a danger of inciting violence, dangerous games such as Blue Whale and any anti-national posts. Theoretically, this sounds plausible, on paper. Keeping aside all the legality and the ethics of such a move, linking every social media account with the Aadhaar number does add a face or an identity to what could otherwise be a typical anonymous online identity. Mind you, it can be done.

The argument that can go in favour is also that the Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements are standard for, and enforced to the fullest, in the case of banking apps, mobile wallets and even for mobile connections. This is not to say that the contents or your usage habits are tracked. But it is to simply have a record of who owns the particular account or service.

But then again, social media is a completely different ball game altogether.

Social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have millions of users globally. In no country are the users required to link an identification proof with the online profiles. That said, cyber bullying, fake news and all the other drawbacks that come with the often anonymous presence on the internet, are all prevalent globally. But the Madras High Court has thus far added cybercrime and intermediate liability aspects to this legal battle. The government’s own legal submissions have spoken about anti-national posts and more. All that simply adds new dimensions that are open to interpretation.

First up, Facebook has argued in court that any mandatory linking requirement for of Aadhaar or any other identity document issued by the government goes against the guidelines of the Constitution Bench in the Aadhaar case. There is no getting around the fact that this will involve interpreting the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2019.

Facebook has so far insisted that WhatsApp messages, for instance, are end-to-end encrypted. That means even they cannot read the contents of those messages. The contention is, how can they cannot therefore share the Aadhaar details with a third party.

That said, the government’s primary motive here could be to simply add the strand of responsibility to all social media accounts. If the social media accounts are KYC compliant, it may become easier to trace a user if a malicious or potentially problematic post is found online, be it via screenshots too.

The one debate that will continue to rage on will be around the possible censorship such an implementation could lead to, as well as the question about user data privacy.

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