Now Social Media Accounts Should be Aadhaar-Linked in ‘National Interest’

National InterestAttorney General for India KK Venugopal on Tuesday emphasized in the Supreme Court the need to link Aadhaar with social media accounts in order to trace users in the national interest.

The top law officer submitted before a bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta that spurt in cybercrimes, use of social media in terror-related activities and inciting violence, pornography, etc require the identity of users to be made known to law enforcement agencies.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stressed the need to find a balance between the right to online privacy and the right of the State to detect people who use the web to spread panic and commit crimes.

Venugopal, who is appearing in the batch of transfer petitions for the Tamil Nadu government, also cited the Blue Whale game to illustrate the dangers of social media. “We have lost so many lives because of this game. And we still don’t know how this game originated and the people behind it. This is a very serious matter,” he said.

The AG, who also appeared for the central government in a connected matter, was responding to transfer petitions filed by social media giant Facebook, which also owns WhatsApp, in the wake of various petitions on Aadhaar-social media linkage pending across high courts of Bombay, Odisha, and Madras.

Appearing for Facebook and WhatsApp, senior lawyers Mukul Rohatgi and Kapil Sibal contended that the Supreme Court should transfer to itself all the petitions on the issue so that they are not subjected to diverse orders that might be taken by different high courts.

Social Media Accounts Should be Aadhaar-Linked in ‘National Interest’: Govt’s Top Law Officer Tells SC.

A Bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Ghose expressed concern over the dangers of the dark web. “Though I do not know how to access it, I have heard about the dark goings-on in the dark web. It is worse than what happens [in the service web],” Justice Gupta expressed the court’s consternation.

The Bench’s comments were in response to submissions made by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government along with advocate Balaji Srinivasan, about need to link the social media profiles of registered users with their Aadhaar numbers, and if required, have platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to share the 12-digit unique identity with law enforcement agencies to help detect crimes.

Mr. Rohatgi said Mr. Venugopal was unnecessarily delving into the merits of the case and he should only argue on the question of transfer. The court, as the highest court in the country, and not the High Courts, should decide the issue that affected the privacy of an online user. A decision of the top court would cover the entire span of the country and would uniformly apply to all the States.

There was a risk that the different High Courts may arrive at conflicting decisions on the issue of Aadhaar linkage. It would be better to have the apex court take the final call. The Tamil Nadu police were saying that Aadhaar should be used for linking user profiles, he said.

“They cannot tell us how to run our platforms. We have an end to end encryption on WhatsApp and even we do not have access to the content. How can we tell them what is the Aadhaar number? We also have to take care of the privacy of the users,” he stated.


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