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.

August 24, 2017: The nine-judge Constitution Bench rules that right to privacy is “intrinsic to life and liberty” and is inherently protected under the various fundamental freedoms enshrined under Part III of the Indian Constitution

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the World; indeed it's the only thing that ever has"

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” - Edward Snowden

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.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

9629 - Aadhaar debate: Why you should care about privacy even if you have absolutely nothing to hide - Scroll.In


Published Mar 21, 2016 · 05:30 pm.  

The discussion on privacy and mass surveillance that started with the passage of the controversial Bill must continue.

Image credit:  via Pixabay.com

On March 11, the Aadhaar Bill was passed by 73 of the 545 members of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, after three hours of discussion. It sanctions the bulk collection and centralisation of biometric and demographic data by the government and private businesses. Many people argue that the controversial Bill contains inadequate provisions to protect the privacy of Indian citizens.

The debate around Aadhaar highlights the need to evaluate what privacy means to us in the face of continual technological change and to inform our elected representatives of the balance we want to achieve between surveillance and security. Here are my thoughts on the frequently asked questions about surveillance that I have encountered and that have been debated in the media.

1. What does surveillance have to do with being free?
American abolitionist Wendell Phillips said: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. The right to live freely with dignity and self-determination has been won and lost repeatedly through history. Monarchs, dictators, the military and democratically elected governments have exploited and even oppressed the citizens of their states for thousands of years. I am only the second generation of India’s citizens born free.

So freedom needs to be constantly defended and protected every time a government changes and every time a new technology appears. This is the first reason why we should care about unfettered surveillance. Unfettered, it provides individuals, governments and businesses the opportunity and technology to monitor and interfere with how we spend or don’t spend our money, where we go, whom we visit and talk to, what information we seek, even when we wake and sleep.

2. I have nothing to hide so why should I care about surveillance?
You may not be making bombs, hiding weapons, selling illegal drugs or participating in other unlawful activities in your home, but that doesn’t mean you are willing to let the police enter and search it at any time of night or day without your permission, or a good legal reason and a search warrant.
The reason we don’t allow the state and its representatives to enter and search our homes and offices at will is because, one, this is an invasion of our privacy and two, this gives them unrestricted power to interfere with our lives and potentially misuse their authority. Most people would agree that many injustices are witnessed in military states or times of Emergency when these privacy laws are relaxed.
Your phone, your computer, the many private accounts you set up online are an important part of your private home and work life. There is no reason why the same rules of privacy should not apply to these relatively new parts of your personal life as they do to your home and land. The decision is yours to take and you can say “no” to the state and to businesses.
Another way to think about this is as US National Security Agency whistleblower and privacy campaigner Edward Snowden puts it:
“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say”.

The fundamental right to freedom of speech is yours and is protected whether you exercise it or not. "Nobody needs to justify why they ‘need' a right," said Snowden. "The burden of justification falls on the one seeking to infringe upon the right." He added: "You can't give away the rights of others because they're not useful to you… the majority cannot vote away the natural rights of the minority."

3. The government will not bother me because I am unimportant to them. I can say whatever I like on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp and I am still a free citizen. The government is only interested in monitoring certain types of people such as terrorists, anti-nationals and international spies.
Let’s hope that this remains true. Let’s hope that the government remains uninterested in us. Let’s hope that we never say or do anything that unsettles the government or any of their friends. But if this means that we need to censor what we say so as not to upset the government and its friends, then giving up our privacy will in effect curtail our right to freedom of speech. So how sure are you that the government will not interfere with you no matter what you say? And to what extent are you willing to give up your fundamental right to free speech in order to avoid interference (in the absence of privacy laws)? These are the questions that face every one of us.

4. What does surveillance have to do with the right to dissent? Why would I need to dissent?
Dissent is not confined to signing public petitions or marching together. Dissent is every time you disagree with something in thought or action. And sometimes that disagreement means taking action that is more personally costly than signing public petitions or expressing your views via social media. Sometimes dissent means that you have to take the government or a business to court for denying you your legal rights. Land disputes when the government acquires land, discrimination at educational institutions, tax and pensions disputes are only a few examples.
With unfettered surveillance, every time you disagree with the state, they can take advantage of the huge imbalance of information between them and you. They can put you under pressure to concede or use information that you did not even know they possessed to embattle you in court. And their story need not be true. The availability of mass data does not automatically reveal the truth. The truth has to be extracted from it. The details of your phone calls, movements, purchases, demographics and social interactions can be used to construct any number of different truths. So how comfortable are you with having the intimate details of your life in the hands of unknown people who can interpret them as they wish?

5. Governments need to monitor some citizens for reasons of national security so surveillance is necessary, isn’t it?
There are cases where governments might surveil people but to do so they need to provide good reason and obtain time limited warrants. If governments are surveilling us illegally, without good reason and warrants, then they should be held accountable just like anyone else who breaks the law.
This need not be an all or nothing game. Just like the state needs a warrant to enter our homes, we can have laws that say that they should need one to also enter our phones, computers or any other private online accounts. Surveillance can be made a legal option once the state provides good evidence that someone is suspected of wrongdoing. And it can be made time-limited. At the moment we could be subject to mass surveillance indefinitely whether or not we have ever broken the law or been suspected of it.

6. How come I have never felt the effects of surveillance on my personal life if it has been going on for years?
We are increasingly comfortable assuming that we are being monitored on CCTV cameras or that our movements can be traced via the metadata our mobile phone activity. Have you ever thought twice about performing an innocent educational Internet search on a controversial topic (for instance, on how to make explosives) because you fear attracting the attention of the powers that be? Is such self-censorship an effect of surveillance?
Besides the use of personal data by the state, there is also the question of how our data is used by private businesses. Think of the number of times you have seen a personalised advertisement online, experienced increases in your junk mail when you signed up to a website or made an online purchase, or received unsolicited phone calls or text messages from unknown businesses. Your personal data is already being shared amongst many businesses and organisations. Much of this data may not be used to individually target you but it is being used to analyse and understand large-scale patterns of behaviour and subtly manipulate the information you receive.
Surveillance is becoming more powerful and frequent. The introduction of biometric data collection such as with Aadhaar and the ongoing attempts to legalise and expand surveillance by many governments including in the USA, UK and India attest to that. Surveillance is increasing, not disappearing. The belief that the debates around it do not apply to us and are led by conspiracy theorists and fantasists may prove to be costly self-deception.

7. Governments have been monitoring citizens for a long time so what does it matter whether I care or not, they are going to do it anyway.
Yes, governments will continue to legally employ mass surveillance if we do not tell them that they cannot. But if we say “no” and demand privacy laws that make their activities illegal then that is the beginning of change.
Just like we have created laws that stop the police from entering our homes without our permission or legal justification, there is no reason to think that we cannot achieve the same with the new technologies we use. The technology to stop the government from snooping on us exists and the more we demand it, not only from the government but also the businesses to which we give our information, the more such encryption and security protocols will be developed and strengthened. Recent reports suggest that Facebook, Google and WhatsApp plan to increase the encryption of user data in light of Apple’s recent conflict with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US.
Sure, it is tiring to maintain freedom, but it will be even more tiring to wrest it back once it is lost. The choice is between investing a little of our time and energy into maintaining the rights we have now versus having little control over our time and energy in the future.

Shakti Lamba is an Economic and Social Research Council Research Fellow & Senior Lecturer in Human Behavioural Ecology at the University of Exeter, UK.

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