09 Unintended consequences

Unintended consequences are by definition unforeseeable, and some take decades to become visible. Sometimes the cost is worth the risk. Sometimes it is not. Once hacked, to name just once instance, the identity of the Indian spies abroad will be compromised permanently. Is the Government of India ready to face the security implications of iris scans in Pakistan and China and matching them with a hacked UIDAI database?

The consequences of secure, protected data are also unforeseeable. One consequence will be to permanently brand entire sections of the Indian population as statutory rapist and illegitimate. This will be visible only after 14-15 years when the children go to school. How it will happen is like this. The biometrics of everyone over 15 will be collected with the census of India 2011. From 2026, when the children born in 2011 go to school, they will be checked with the biometrics of their parents. The age of their parents age at the time of birth will be clearly identifiable since Aadhaar will be linked to other databases. Since sexual intercourse below the age of 15 is statutory rape (there is no question of consent there) all those children and communities will be on the wrong side of the law. So we are going to condemn an entire generation of people, and entire communities, to lifelong (and beyond) sigma, since this is going to be a ‘permanent’ database.

There will also be onus on the government to prevent such large scale child marriages, since it will have the data in its own databases. It will leave itself open to charges of connivance and avoidable litigation if it does not act on this information. Will the government not allow these children to join schools? Or will it imprison the parents? Either way, it will leave the parents open to blackmail by those who know that the data is available, with the Damocles sword of exposure hanging over them permanently.

Keeping data permanently will also be in conflict with the Juvenile Justice Act that rules all criminal records be wiped clean at 18. UIDAI seeks to keep the records permanent.