UIDAI Shelves Plan to Hire Social Media Monitoring Agency to Track Online Conversations


The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) told the Supreme Court on Tuesday it has withdrawn the controversial tender seeking to invite bids for a social media monitoring agency to deal with misconceptions about Aadhaar. The authority contended before Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph that it will not float another tender in the future. Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra had moved the apex court challenging the UIDAI’s decision and terming it an utter violation of right to digital privacy.

In July 2018, the authority had floated a tender inviting bids for an agency with technical capability to monitor and track online conversations. This agency would have done a sentiment analysis of all such conversations and flagged any discrepancy in sentiments and worked out and neutralised negative sentiments.

The authority claimed the utility of this monitoring agency would help in gauging public sentiment in connection with Aadhaar and also assist in sorting out misconceptions, often resulting in misgivings, with the unique identification project.

Moitra, in the petition filed through Nizam Pasha, claimed the process of engaging a social media monitoring agency is a tool aimed at social media surveillance. “This is just another social media surveillance centre by another name,” she said in the petition.

The Centre withdrew the tender floated by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting after it was challenged before the apex court in another PIL filed by Moitra.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing with advocates Pasha and Ranjeeta Rohatgi, requested that the statements made by UIDAI be recorded in the order and the PIL was disposed off in terms of the statement. This is the second occasion when the Centre has backtracked on its plans of social media surveillance in PILs filed by Moitra.

After several hearings on the matter, the UIDAI on Tuesday told the court the tender has expired and it has no plans of reviving the tender or floating a similar tender.

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