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An estimated 4-minute read

How e-governance almost killed this man.

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- The events depicted in this blog are fictitious. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental.

- "The mind of man can imagine nothing which has not really existed." --Edgar Allan Poe


Mr. Good Sitizen [(not his real name for obvious reasons) (don’t try to trace him online) (since curiosity might get to you, here is the google link http://bit.ly/asy0Re )] has been a good citizen for almost forty years now. He started out as an engineer in the early 80’s and is now heading the business division of a small company in a large metropolitan town. He has paid his taxes and always asked for a bill. He’s never bribed a person and was actively involved in formulating an anti-bribery policy for his company.


Suddenly one day, GS [(no relation to Mr.Gopal Subramaniam) (ok, I was trying to be funny there but don’t judge my humouring skills yet)] got a call from a person who claimed to be a police officer in his city. The person on the other line wanted to know more about GS’s family and knew his personal details – home address, PAN card, etc. When GS queried why he wanted such information, the man on the other line said he would call back later.


In shock as to why a police officer wanted to know his personal details, he searched for the officer online. Not surprisingly there was no such man. There was no police officer in the whole country by that name. When he called back on the number, he found it switched off. Scared and confused, he went to the nearest police station and told the good people there what had just happened.


After a week, a man was caught. And not surprisingly he wasn’t a low level criminal or a member of the F-company. He’d been collecting simple information about GS from his office. He’d seen his Dudebook(this one is easy) account and got to know his birthdate, place of residence and other small details. With such information and more available on google , the young man had found out GS address as well as his PAN card information. Here is how he did it (do try this at home, it’s kind of fun) –


1)      Visit https://incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in/portal/knowpan.do . Enter the person’s surname and DOB. On the next page you’ll have to enter the name of the person’s father (it’s not that tough knowing how excited people are to related themselves on Dudebook). And you’re done. You’ll know the person’s PAN CARD number.


2)      Now its time to find out where the person lives. So we log on to http://www.bsnl.co.in/map.htm . Then click on the state and find out the address of the person by just filling up their name and city. It’s beautiful how technology works.


There we go. Now we have information like address, phone number, PAN card, etc. India doesn’t have a data protection law unlike other countries. While the Courts have upheld the Right to privacy, there is no specific legislation we can reach out for when we need to protect ourselves. If a company leaks personal information, the client can sue the company for breach of confidentiality. However, where does an individual go if his/her information is put up for the public ? A writ petition could take time and expose the individual to unknown dangers. This takes us to the point of why the Government is yet to take up data protection seriously.


What we're looking for is a data protection policy like the one issued by the European Commission.  The policy which has been adopted by the United Kingdom in the Data Protection Act, 1998 does not allow any agency to process information that will cause an individual distress or expose them in any way. The draft of the National Identity Authority of India Bill, 2010 discusses data protection and imposes punishment on those gaining unauthorized access to our information. The key word here being 'unauthorized' but what do we do when access to such information is authorized?


Today and until the Government does something serious about data protection, we're all exposed...not knowing who is preying on us.

See John2010's other blogs:

Celebrating Baby Thackeray's decision to study in English

We're all racists. Can we change?

8 disturbing signs that our elected representatives have forgotten us.

How comrade whistle blower lost his ethical virginity

The PM on legal education: What he said and did not say.

The 26/11 Judgement fails the maturity test and how we can still salvage justice.

Confessions of a chronic cheater.....

When things go wrong.....

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