The government of India is running a pilot project that will assign a six-character alphanumeric digital address for every property for three postal pin code locations. The project aims at providing an e-location (eLoc) to each and every address. These will be then linked to other information such as ownership details of the property, tax records, records of bills like electricity, water, gas etc.
The move comes when the unique identification project of the government called Aadhaar is under the scanner of the Supreme Court for violating citizens’ privacy and for causing deaths.
The eLoc pilot project has already been approved for two postal pin codes in Delhi and one in Noida. It is a private company called MapmyIndia that will be executing the project for the Postal Department that comes under the Ministry of Communications. MapmyIndia is also going to partner with ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) and its National Satellite Imagery Service called Bhuvan to access mapping coordinates.
After the e-location has been ascertained, the postal department will share data with the private firm to link this information to the physical addresses. MapmyIndia MD Rakesh Verma claimed that this linkage would make it easier to identify what he called ‘complex addresses’ and also provide certain amenities and services.
The private firm also said that the data harvested in this project will be owned solely by the Department of Posts and that it will not be used by the firm for any commercial purpose. At the same time, the firm also revealed that they already possessed an exhaustive digital address database that includes information about over 2 crore eLocs of individuals, businesses and government set-ups.
Under this project, every address gets a unique six-characterÂ alphanumeric digital address. For example, a person’s house can be 7KUCFU and this, in turn, can be linked with the Aadhaar number. The same can be done with a person’s workplace address and any address related to them once the project gets sanctioned after the pilot run in Delhi and Noida.
Aadhaar – a unique identification number for every Indian citizen basedÂ on their biometric and demographic data, had come under heavy criticism from citizens and activists over allegations of violation of privacy.
A data breach was reported in the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) database for Aadhaar in January 2018. UIDAI is theÂ statutory authority established in January 2009 by the government of India entrusted with theÂ entire Aadhaar data of India.
Linking of Aadhaar to amenities and services similar to the ones now listed by the e-Loc project have resulted in many deaths, especially that of underprivileged people, across the country.
The most recent death was reported in December 2017 when Shakuntala Devi (55) died at a hospital in Sonepat after being refused to be admitted for treatment for not carrying her Aadhaar card. The authorities at the hospital had categorically asked her son to bring her Aadhaar card in case she wishes to be treated for her heart problem.
Plans to merge technology and data without any strict privacy policies in place is another matter of concern.