Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official and whistleblower Edward Snowden has urged the Indian government to frame stringent laws on data privacy, making misuse of Aadhar information a criminal offence.  

Snowden, who currently resides in an unknown location in Moscow spoke via video conference in a recently concluded fifth edition of the 'Talk Journalism' in Jaipur. He said that if the government is concerned about Aadhaar identity data, it should frame a proper procedure to penalise individuals or companies that misuse the Aadhaar information.

He cited the example of Google uploading Aadhaar's old toll-free number into all Android phones. Snowden wasn't impressed with the search engine giant's excuse that it had inadvertently added the number into the Android code.

Snowden also raised concerns about the government using Aadhar details to directly transfer money to beneficiaries' accounts. "If that were all that Aadhaar did, no one would have an argument against it. The problem is that it is being used for things unrelated to what the government is claiming they are for," Snowden said.

Edward Snowden speaks via video link during a news conference
Edward Snowden spoke at the recently concluded Talk Journalism event in JaipurREUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Snowden has urged UIDAI to not target whistleblowers and seriously investigate reports of data leaks. 

Snowden's statements come weeks after Justice BN Srikrishna submitted a report for the privacy laws in India. He also a made a draft for the new legislation on data protection titled, 'The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018'.

In the report, BN Srikrishna has urged the government to make amendments to Aadhaar Act to deal with individual issues with enforceable action and most importantly, remedies to make sure there won't be any recurrence of data leak either by state-run public offices or by private companies.

If the state or any private institutions are found guilty of leaking personal identifiable details including Aadhaar data, they should be booked for violating data protection law with a severe monetary penalty. The victims of data leaks must also be compensated for breach of privacy, the report said. 

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