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Tech companies push back against India’s plan to link social media accounts to Aadhar state identity numbers

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A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in the Madras High Court in India seeking to link Aadhar (the country’s unique social identity number) with social media accounts, is now taking an interesting turn of events.

The country’s Supreme Court had ordered the Madras High Court to continue the hearings and the necessary legal proceedings, but to step away from passing the final orders. This high-profile case involves several parties such as the tech giants Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram alongside the Madras High Court.

The country’s top court had to intervene after Facebook filed a Transfer Petition in the previous week, requesting to transfer the case to the Supreme Court instead. As a result, it was decided that the final decision would be in the hands of Supreme Court, while the proceedings and other legal tasks would be carried out in the Madras High Court.

The PIL was originally filed by Antony Clement Rubin in July 2018, seeking to integrate the Aadhar number with social media accounts for user authentication, and better traceability on encrypted platforms.

Later on, the case started to gain more attention as the division bench judges S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad had expanded the scope of the case, and included aspects such as cybercrime, and intermediary liability.

In July, the Madras High Court had allowed Internet Freedom Foundation, a digital rights organization to act as an intervener in this case.

After taking an interesting turn of events, a PIL filed in the country’s state court had turned out to be a major legal battle for big tech. While the PIL is urging the social media companies to devise a mechanism for tracing people and authenticating them by integrating Aadhar with their social media accounts, the tech giants are showing no inclination to do so.

Big tech says that accepting to integrate the Aadhar and devising a method for tracking users may potentially violate user privacy, and would alter the product design of their social media network in a major manner. It is reported that WhatsApp will most likely be the social media network to face the most impact.

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