The move assumes significance amid the ongoing violence in parts of the Capital, where reports have emerged about the Vahan database being used to allegedly identify vehicle owners for targeted violence.
New Delhi-based Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), which operates as a digital rights advocacy organisation, on Wednesday reached out to transport minister Nitin Gadkari, highlighting the possible misuse of the Vahan database, further urging the ministry to stop public and private access to the Vahan and Sarathi databases.
“We strongly believe that such targeted acts of violence is only possible with the ministry publishing vehicle registration data in the public domain without the consent of individuals,” Sidharth Deb, policy and parliamentary counsel for IFF, said in a letter to Gadkari.
“Such databasing is particularly risky since the evidence is growing that unfettered access and aggregation of public database are a threat to individual safety and freedoms of all citizens,” the letter said. “Such risks are graver for minority or at-risk groups and communities.”
ET has confirmed that it is possible to access the full name of the vehicle owner– which, in most cases, reveals her or his religious identity– if you key in the vehicle registration number on the Vahan website.
Officials from the ministry of road transport and highways ET reached out to, denied having wind of any such violation that may have taken place during the events that have unfolded in Delhi, particularly this week.
“We want to conceal with asterisk, few alphabets of the vehicle owner’s name, so their identity is somewhat protected,” an official told ET. “We have been working on this for some time now, and it is unrelated to the events in Delhi,” said the official who did not wish to be identified given the sensitivity of the issue.
While concerns have been prevalent about the misuse of the Vahan database, the official said that the data is shared only with law enforcement agencies in the country. “Personal data of the vehicle owner, apart from the name, is not available publicly. We only share data relating to type and colour of vehicle, among other things,” the official said.
The Bulk Data Sharing policy of the transport ministry states that apart from law enforcement agencies, the Vehicle Registration Certificate and Driving License data of users is also shared with automobile industries, banks, finance companies, at specified rates for each data set.
“It is recognised that sharing this data for other purposes, in a controlled manner, can support the transport and automobile industry. The sharing of data will also help in service improvements and wider benefits to citizens & government,” the policy states.