uid

When I opposed Aadhaar in 2010 , I was called a BJP stooge. In 2016 I am still opposing Aadhaar for the same reasons and I am told I am a Congress die hard. No one wants to see why I oppose Aadhaar as it is too difficult. Plus Aadhaar is FREE so why not get one ? Ram Krishnaswamy

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -Mahatma Gandhi

In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place. Mahatma Gandhi

“The invasion of privacy is of no consequence because privacy is not a fundamental right and has no meaning under Article 21. The right to privacy is not a guaranteed under the constitution, because privacy is not a fundamental right.” Article 21 of the Indian constitution refers to the right to life and liberty -Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi

“There is merit in the complaints. You are unwittingly allowing snooping, harassment and commercial exploitation. The information about an individual obtained by the UIDAI while issuing an Aadhaar card shall not be used for any other purpose, save as above, except as may be directed by a court for the purpose of criminal investigation.” -A three judge bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar said in an interim order.

Legal scholar Usha Ramanathan describes UID as an inverse of sunshine laws like the Right to Information. While the RTI makes the state transparent to the citizen, the UID does the inverse: it makes the citizen transparent to the state, she says.

Good idea gone bad
I have written earlier that UID/Aadhaar was a poorly designed, unreliable and expensive solution to the really good idea of providing national identification for over a billion Indians. My petition contends that UID in its current form violates the right to privacy of a citizen, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. This is because sensitive biometric and demographic information of citizens are with enrolment agencies, registrars and sub-registrars who have no legal liability for any misuse of this data. This petition has opened up the larger discussion on privacy rights for Indians. The current Article 21 interpretation by the Supreme Court was done decades ago, before the advent of internet and today’s technology and all the new privacy challenges that have arisen as a consequence.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP Rajya Sabha

“What is Aadhaar? There is enormous confusion. That Aadhaar will identify people who are entitled for subsidy. No. Aadhaar doesn’t determine who is eligible and who isn’t,” Jairam Ramesh

But Aadhaar has been mythologised during the previous government by its creators into some technology super force that will transform governance in a miraculous manner. I even read an article recently that compared Aadhaar to some revolution and quoted a 1930s historian, Will Durant. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rajya Sabha MP

“I know you will say that it is not mandatory. But, it is compulsorily mandatorily voluntary,” Jairam Ramesh, Rajya Saba April 2017


Special

Here is what the Parliament Standing Committee on Finance, which examined the draft N I A Bill said.

1. There is no feasibility study of the project]

2. The project was approved in haste

3. The system has far-reaching consequences for national security

4. The project is directionless with no clarity of purpose

5. It is built on unreliable and untested technology

6. The exercise becomes futile in case the project does not continue beyond the present number of 200 million enrolments

7. There is lack of coordination and difference of views between various departments and ministries of government on the project

Quotes

What was said before the elections:

NPR & UID aiding Aliens – Narendra Modi

"I don't agree to Nandan Nilekeni and his madcap (UID) scheme which he is trying to promote," Senior BJP Leader Yashwant Sinha, Sept 2012

"All we have to show for the hundreds of thousands of crore spent on Aadhar is a Congress ticket for Nilekani" Yashwant Sinha.(27/02/2014)

TV Mohandas Pai, former chief financial officer and head of human resources, tweeted: "selling his soul for power; made his money in the company wedded to meritocracy." Money Life Article

Nilekani’s reporting structure is unprecedented in history; he reports directly to the Prime Minister, thus bypassing all checks and balances in government - Home Minister Chidambaram

To refer to Aadhaar as an anti corruption tool despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary is mystifying. That it is now officially a Rs.50,000 Crores solution searching for an explanation is also without any doubt. -- Statement by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP & Member, Standing Committee on Finance

Finance minister P Chidambaram’s statement, in an exit interview to this newspaper, that Aadhaar needs to be re-thought completely is probably the last nail in its coffin. :-) Financial Express

The Rural Development Ministry headed by Jairam Ramesh created a road Block and refused to make Aadhaar mandatory for making wage payment to people enrolled under the world’s largest social security scheme NRGA unless all residents are covered.


Search This Blog

Monday, March 14, 2016

9503 - Aadhaar is actually surveillance tech: Sunil Abraham - Business Standard

Interview with executive director of The Centre for Internet & Society

March 12, 2016 Last Updated at 21:48 IST



On March 12, the Lok Sabha passed the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, paving the way for giving legal status to Aadhaar, a 12-digit unique identification number generated after collecting biometric and other details of an Indian resident. 

The government intends to use Aadhaar to roll out more subsidy schemes and allay privacy concerns. However, activists are not convinced. Sunil Abraham, executive director of Bengaluru based-research organisation The Centre for Internet & Society, tells Sahil Makkar that the concept of Aadhaar is principally flawed and it doesn't substantially help in plugging leakages in government schemes. Edited excerpts:

What is your position on Aadhaar and the UIDAI Bill?

What technology has broken cannot be fixed by the law. Aadhaar is a broken technology; it is surveillance technology disguised as developmental intervention that identifies people without their consent and authenticates transactions on their behalf. The architecture is a disaster from the security perspective and there is no recourse in law for citizens whose rights have been infringed. The other objection should be to the subtitle of the Bill that mentions "services": it is unclear whether Aadhaar is to be provided to the residents or the citizens. A bulk of the government services is meant for citizens.

What are the repercussions of this "broken technology"?

Consent happens without conscious cooperation during the authentication process of getting access to a subsidy or a service. Also, the person providing the service is holding a biometric reader and he may say the device is not working and hence, refuse the subsidy. Yet the database will reflect that the subsidy has been availed of because authentication has already been completed. So you have to accept what the person is saying because only that person and the UIDAI have access to the information. Aadhaar makes the citizen transparent to the state but makes the state completely opaque and unaccountable to its citizens.

Will the beneficiary not receive a message about the transaction?

That will only happen when the banks are involved. At the subsidised ration shop the beneficiary will get nothing. The world over security professionals don't trust biometric-based authentication, relying rather on other revocable authentication factors. It is irrevocable if the biometric details are compromised. Instead, writable smart cards could be used to record details of government officers on the cards of beneficiaries and make both the state and the resident transparent to each other.

Hasn't the National Population Register under the Ministry of Home Affairs been advocating the use of smart cards?

In this case biometrics should be used only to link the individual to the smart card. Biometric information should be stored on smart cards and under no circumstances should there be a central repository of biometrics at one place. Maintaining a central database is akin to getting the keys of every house in Delhi and storing them at a central police station. The chances of getting a central database compromised depend on the nature of information stored in it. For the sake of security one can't create a honey pot to be attacked by many. The internet is secure because it doesn't have a central database. The other difference is that faking biometrics is much easier than faking smart cards.

So your principle opposition is to the setting up of a central repository of biometrics?

I am also opposed to the use of biometrics for identification and authentication; this is nothing but surveillance. It is very easy to capture iris data of any individual with the use of next generation cameras. Imagine a situation when the police is secretly capturing the iris data of protesters and then identifying them through their biometric records.

But if the security agencies are able to identify those who create law and order problems, what is the hitch?

It is exactly the same argument that Apple is giving while refusing back-door entry to intelligence and investigating agencies. Once you build surveillance capacity for good governance, it may be misused by a repressive government, a rogue corporation or by criminals. Fear of this type of surveillance will deter people from holding any protest.

Doesn't the Aadhaar or the UIDAI conform to safety and security provisions in the IT Act?

The standards in our IT Act are woefully inadequate in comparison to European regulators and courts. If it adhered to the highest standards, the European privacy commissioner and data protection authorities would have given India adequacy status. The second problem is that the current IT Act doesn't apply to the government. If the government holds your data, it is under no obligation to protect your rights.

You have been part of the Justice A P Shah Committee on privacy. How important is it to have a separate privacy law in the present context?

It is not only important for the purpose of safeguarding human rights, but also to protect the competitiveness of our BPO, ITeS and KPO sectors. We need a data protection law that is compliant with European Data Protection Regulation.

How will such a law help a common man whose data have been compromised?

It will provide clarity to an individual about where he or she stands with regard to privacy. It is strange that the government took diametrically opposite stands in two cases related to privacy in the Supreme Court. When some activists demanded that the UIDAI be scrapped, the government argued before the court that there was no Constitutional right to privacy. When the police asked for the biometric records from the UIDAI, the same government argued there was a right to privacy and that it couldn't divulge the details to the police. The government is not speaking in the same voice; even courts are not speaking in the same voice, because there have been conflicting judgements. So the proposed law will provide clarity on privacy and people will be able to seek compensation under it.

At the same time it cannot be denied that Aadhaar can plug leakages and save hundreds and thousands of rupees for the exchequer....

Aadhaar is only answering two questions: Is this particular biometric unique (enrolment) and does it match the template in the database? If you bring a Bangladeshi into the system, it will answer both the questions in the affirmative. The Aadhaar only eliminates the possibility of one person receiving the benefits twice. At the same time it is very easy to put a ghost beneficiary back into the system. If Aadhaar has to work, we need a publicly visible auditable trail of subsidy moving from Delhi to the villages. That will eliminate corruption in the supply chain.

Isn't it difficult for a large number of ghost beneficiaries to get into the system?

There is no way to check whether a genuine or a ghost beneficiary has been removed from the list. It is not a foolproof system because no one is vouching for anybody. In the current system it is difficult to find out who created this ghost beneficiary. Nobody loses a job for creating a ghost; in fact, here everyone has an incentive.

If there are problems with the UIDAI system, why is the government upbeat about it?

As techno-utopians our government wants technology to answer everything and solve all our problems. If anything goes wrong, it can easily be blamed on technology.