The concurrent ability to know the individual and her private sphere in microcosmic granularity and to process this knowledge for its macroscopic vastitudes is what distinguishes digital age surveillance. It means the possibility to know, as in the case of the Chinese government, precisely which woman is flouting the one-child policy, and when the policy is abandoned, who the millions of women are that must get their intrauterine device (IUDs) removed.
This brings us to Aadhaar, the unique ID system introduced in 2009, legitimated through the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016. A unique citizen ID is that one piece of data which allows the government the prowess to piece together multiple fragments of an individual’s life in order to produce a singular narrative. Your unique ID, when introduced into databases, can allow different databases to talk to each other, allowing particular personas representing you to be assembled at will by the state.
In the Philippines case of Ople versus Torres, 1998, the Supreme Court struck down the Administrative Order that sought to implement the National Computerised Identification Reference System. The Court held that citizens needed assurance that personal information will only be processed for unequivocally specified purposes, to prevent “fishing expeditions” by government authorities. The Court observed that possibilities of abuse and misuse of the PRN, biometrics and computer technology are accentuated since individuals lack control over what can be read or placed on their ID, much less verify the correctness of the data encoded. New technologies therefore threaten the very abuses that the constitutional Bill of Rights seeks to prevent.