How State Family Database Projects Pose Dangers Of In-Depth Citizen Profiling And Exclusion - Sarasvati NT
The Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency (TNeGA) floated a second tender in December 2022 for implementation and maintenance of a Master Data Management and de- duplication tool for a State Family Database (SFDB) project. The objective is to assign the ‘Makkal ID’— a unique identification number already allotted to the state’s seven crore residents— to different records across departments.
The SFDB is projected to be the “single source of truth” of all state residents by merging information of an individual across all government departments, from education, health and vehicle ownership details to land records, income and community details among a host of other personal data. This information, including that of births, deaths and marriages, will also be used to identify a resident’s relationship with other members in their family.
Similarly, in April 2022 the Maharashtra government had floated a tender for creation of a “data integration and data exchange platform” called the Maharashtra Unified Citizen Data Hub, which will be used to assign a unique ID for every citizen. The unified database will provide a ‘golden record’ of citizens bringing together information from over 56 databases across 377 government bodies giving insights into a person’s name, Aadhaar, caste, education, bank, property, and employment details among others. Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have their own family ID card schemes called the Parivar Pehchan Patra and Parivar Kalyan Card. Andhra Pradesh’s Praja Sadhikara Survey or the Smart Pulse Survey conducted in 2016 aims to achieve real-time governance by digitising socio-economic data of every resident. Telangana’s Samagra Kutumba Survey was completed in 2014 to create a master database of every household in the state. Rajasthan maintains a Bhamashah Resident Data Hub of families residing in the state for ‘efficiency and transparency’ in delivering welfare benefits.
While states are experimenting with the idea of creating SFDB currently, the concept is not new. It stems from another e-governance project, the State Resident Data Hubs (SRDH), undertaken by several states before the 2018 Aadhaar judgment. States such as Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana had created their own SRDH, which an analysis by Anand Venkatanarayanan shows, contained “maximum information about residents, with no restrictions on usage and questionable legal protection”. Though they go by different names, experts say these projects are built on the fundamental concept of creating centralised databases for digital governance. These projects are focussed on building tools for data standardization essentially emphasise on “real-time governance” and “predictive governance”
It is important to note that the states are undertaking SFDB projects to integrate databases across government departments without the notification of a specific law. Experts highlight that any data collection exercise leading to in-depth profiling of citizens, and conducted in the absence of the law is a direct violation of fundamental right to privacy. Usha Ramanathan says that the nature of 360-degree databases enables the state to track you at every stage.
When the government has access to all information about an individual’s existence, profiling them becomes easier. It is not an unexplored concern that this data can then be used for electioneering purposes.
Sarasvati NT, Medianama, 26 January, 2023, https://www.medianama.com/2023/01/223-how-state-family-database-projects-pose-dangers-of-in-depth-citizen-profiling-and-exclusion/