How other countries across the world treat their citizens’ data

A nine-judge bench, constituted by the Supreme Court, on Wednesday is hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the Aadhaar scheme and the aspect of right to privacy attached to it. While the court has heard other matters related to Aadhaar, this case will specifically look at the right to privacy (or the lack thereof) of the Indian citizen.

The right to privacy is mostly understood as against other citizens or private bodies. For example, the right to privacy of a celebrity against tabloids publishing their pictures or the rights of the Facebook user over the data they give to the company. In the current case though, the issue relates to the rights Indian citizens have against their own government.

To get better understanding of the scenario, it will be useful to see how other jurisdictions (of different countries) treat this fundamental right.

Representational image. News18


The world’s oldest democracy takes the right to privacy fairly seriously. While the right to privacy is not mentioned in the US Constitution, the Supreme Court has interpreted several amendments to say that the right does exist. The Fourth Amendment prevents search without a “probable cause”.

Other amendments allow Americans to take certain decisions about their bodies and their private lives without government interference. Several other laws to protect privacy in the US are in place as well.

In particular the Privacy Act, 1974 is meant to protect individuals from unauthorised use of their records by a federal agency. It makes agencies accountable for the records they maintain and requires them to protect the accuracy of records. Agencies must also reveal the purpose for which are collecting information.

As far the privacy of one’s social security number is concerned, federal privacy law seeks to prevent the government from making the Social Security number into a nationally mandated identification number. The Privacy Act is supposed to stop states from mandating…

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