The linking of Aadhaar — the 12-digit unique identification number for Indian residents is about to become safer as new rules put the onus on government departments and agencies to safeguard personal data or information held by them.

Departments handling the data will have to ensure that end-users are made aware of the data usage and collection and their consent is taken either in writing or electronically, according to new guidelines issued by the government for security of personal data.

Sensitive personal data such as passwords, financial information (bank account, credit card, debit card and other payment instrument details), medical records and history, sexual orientation, physical and mental health, and biometric information cannot be stored by agencies without encryption, say the guidelines issued by the Ministry of electronics and information technology (IT).

To be sure, the Information Technology Act 2000 and Aadhaar Act 2016 have laid down most of these rules. The new guidelines seek answers to questions being asked on data protection under the Aadhaar Act, according to Press Trust of India.

UIDAI warns government departments:

  • Publishing identity information, i.e. Aadhaar number along with demographic information is in clear contravention of the provisions of the Aadhaar Act 2016 and constitutes an offence punishable with imprisonment up to 3 years.

  • Publishing of financial information including bank details, being sensitive personal data, is also in contravention of provision under IT Act 2000 with violations liable to pay damages by way of compensation to persons affected.

The move to protect personal data comes after reports that data of 130 million Aadhaar cardholders has been leaked from four government websites. Reports, based on a study conducted by the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) said Aadhaar numbers and details have been leaked.