Government to put your private data online; bringing transparency for fraudsters?

data-hackerSoon your private data will be available online and you might become a potential target for fraud, and this will not be done by any hacker or the likes, but by the government itself. The central government, in its move to bring more transparency to the system is on its way to take the citizens’ private data online.

According to a detailed research carried out by the Indian daily, Business Standard, central government has already started putting up citizens’ personal details such as bank accounts and income on websites, and will be putting up data of about 1.2 Bn citizens of the country online, thus exposing them to the risks of financial frauds etc.

The publication also talks of an instance where occupation, yearly income, full address, age, father’s/husband’s name, category, poverty status etc. i.e. the few details which are available on the ration card of a person were out in the open on the government website of Uttar Pradesh, that might have gone overboard in revealing citizens’ data under the ongoing computerization of the public distribution system.

But if we look at the Information Technology Act, it does not permit publishing sensitive personal financial details online.

Making private details, such as date of birth and names of family members, public can even act as a helping hand for hackers to crack passwords, as most of the people use these details as their passwords.

“If people start publishing information like these and the government doesn’t regulate it through a data protection law, criminal minds can harvest and combine all databases accurately,” says Sunil Abraham, executive director of Centre for Internet and Society.

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If we look at the statistics of government websites, there were more than 1,000 government websites belonging to various ministries and departments that have faced serious security issues due to hacking in last three years. And despite of the measures being taken these numbers are just increasing, from 201 in 2009 to 371 in 2012, and as of March 2013, 48 websites were hacked. Data even shows that about 50% of the total government websites in India are vulnerable to data theft, hacking and cyber terrorism.

When the Food Security Act will come into being, the income status of two-thirds of the population might also be posted online, even the bank account numbers of beneficiaries of various welfare schemes like cooking gas subsidy under the ongoing direct benefit transfer scheme will be made public, says the report.

Though the government is correct in its approach, as there is a need to bring transparency in the system, but cyber security in India has serious loopholes and in this scenario trying to bring transparency is more like opening up gates for cyber criminals.

What is the Government’s plan to ensure data privacy? Is the Government building a team of highly skilled hackers to ensure security of its sites and data? Who will pay for the losses caused due to the theft of this data? Will the Government be liable to mitigate the losses?

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