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Interview: Why I Filed A Case to Link Aadhaar And SM Accounts

Rubin says his fight is to curb cyberbullying and his PIL was to end the anonymity of those spreading online abuse.

Updated
India
2 min read

Editor: Purnendu Pritam and Mohd Irshad Alam
Camera: Vikram Venkateswaran

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Antony Clement Rubin, a Chennai-based animal rights and RTI activist, had submitted a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Madras High Court in 2018 seeking directions from the court to link Aadhaar or any other government issued identity to social media accounts. He also wanted the linking with other online utility services like mails and digital wallets.

Since the filing of the PIL, the case has moved further beyond its original ambit and to include the issue of cybercrime and encryption. While the Madras High Court rejected the prayer to link Aadhaar with social media accounts, it wants to know if it is technically possible to find out the originator of a forwarded message on WhatsApp.

On 31 July, Facebook, a respondent in the Madras High Court hearing, filed a transfer plea in the Supreme Court to have the case in Madras High Court and a clutch of other cases in the high courts of Bombay and Madhya Pradesh moved. The apex court will hear the plea on 13 September.

The Quint interviewed Rubin and asked him a range on questions on why he filed his PIL, his fight against cyberbullying, how he navigates the major privacy concerns of Aadhaar linking and whether a move like this can chill free speech.

A Fight Against Cyber Bullying

“In 2017 I was appointed as part of Jallikattu observing committee. So, when I was posted for that there were lot of troll pages. One specific page was putting abusive content,” said Rubin.

“I went to cybercrime police, filed one complaint, they said they’ll take action. Then again this page posted another one and I filed another complaint but there was no action taken,” he added.

“Later I was told that cyber crime police had written to Facebook to take it down, do something, give details about the perpetrator but they were not getting any reply. When I started speaking with them they said there are many incidents where social media companies like Facebook don’t respond to defamatory, derogatory and abusive posts and it takes up to 2-3 years just to say we don’t have data.”

On Privacy Concerns of Aadhaar-Social Media Linking

“You know India is one of the biggest users of social media accounts, not just WhatsApp and Facebook but also Twitter. I think we are the 1/3, 1/4 contributors of their revenue as well.”

“So, when they make so much money with us and they all have GST numbers, why don’t they invest their time and money in setting up data centres over here. Why don’t they have a bigger nodal office over here where they respond to complaints raised by law enforcement agencies, not random people, much faster?”
Antony Clement Rubin
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“On Aadhaar and the whole privacy issue, even the Madras High Court said that we will let the whole Aadhaar linking slide, literally no one spoke about it, the court isn’t speaking about it. That was even mentioned by KK Venugopal sir in the Supreme Court.”

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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