A 30-year-old who tried to apply for the post of a librarian with the Rajasthan government this July was shocked when the state’s information technology department asked for access to his Twitter, Facebook or Gmail accounts as a pre-condition for the application. If he did not wish to share his social media information, the government’s web portal for job applications—Rajasthan Single Sign On, or RSSO—said, he would have to provide both his Aadhaar number and the biometric data registered with the Unique Identification Authority of India.
Thinking it to be the least invasive option, he gave the department access to his Twitter account. The department asked him to authorise the state government to read his tweets, follow people on his behalf, update his profile, post tweets for him and see his email address. It stopped short of seeking access to his direct messages and twitter password.
RSSO is an online platform for Rajasthan’s citizens to be able to access the services of the state’s government departments, such as applying for jobs, paying water or electricity bills, filing RTI queries, seeking an arms licence and applying for admissions to universities, among others. For a total 87 such services offered by the RSSO, the portal seeks citizens’ personal data. One can register using one of five digital identities: through Aadhaar, Twitter, Facebook, Google or the Bhamashah account—a local digital identity provided by the state government, which is linked to the citizens’ bank accounts.
Many lawyers I spoke to believe that the Rajasthan government is violating the citizens’ constitutional right to privacy. In August last year, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in the Justice Puttaswamy versus Union of India case ruled that privacy is a fundamental right. It said that privacy rights included “informational privacy”—information and facts about the self of a person and their communications. The judges observed that any restrain to privacy by the state can only happen after a state legislation has already defined the purpose, proportion and reasonableness of data collection. The data collection being pursued by the state government does not seem to be following these guidelines.
The privacy rights lawyer Ujwala Uppaluri described RSSO’s requirement as “suspect.” She asked, “Is it really necessary for them to see my high school drunken pictures on Facebook to decide if I’m a good person to work in this or not?” The requirement, thus, seems far from reasonable.