Right to privacy: Telcos to wait for fresh telecom department order, no immediate impact
KOLKATA: Phone companies will await fresh instructions from the telecom department (DoT) on possible changes in continuing with Aadhaar-based digital verification for issuing new mobile connections or re-verifying existing customers in the aftermath of the Supreme Court declaring privacy as a citizen’s fundamental right.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rajya Sabha MP, however, feels Thursday’s Supreme Court verdict, which upholds the right of information privacy, will ring in a sea change in the way telcos, internet service providers, e-commerce companies and app developers manage their customer data.Read more ↓
He said telcos, ISPs and e-commerce companies would now have “a watertight legal obligation” to be very careful about the data they seek from a customer and what they do with it. However, in the immediate term, “it’s business as usual” for telcos, as the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act will be examined separately by a five-judge bench, Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), told ET.
“The mandatory linking of all mobile numbers to Aadhaar for e-KYC will continue for now, unless telcos receive a fresh set of instructions to the contrary from the DoT, laying down specific changes in the process. Otherwise, today’s apex court judgement will not impact the ongoing exercise,” Mathews told ET.
The COAI represents India’s biggest phone firms such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio Infocomm. Mathews said telcos “anyways do not download sensitive biometric information such as a customer’s retina scans or 10-finger prints from the Aadhaar database onto the customer acquisition form (CAF) while selling new connections or reverifying existing customers”.
A senior executive of a leading mobile carrier backed the view, saying telcos merely use rudimentary Aadhaar data such as a person’s name, age, gender and Aadhaar number as part of the digital customer verification process mandated by the government.
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