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.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

9662 - Three Privacy Principles that India Must Uphold - The Wire

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As Aadhaar and Digital India slowly become a reality, there also needs to be an unremitting, focused interest on the protection of individual privacy

Secrecy, anonymity and autonomy. Three privacy principles that the Modi Government needs to protect. Credit: g4ll4is, CC BY 2.0/Flickr

Now that the comparatively easy work of freeing the Indian Internet from the greedy reach of the North American “platform” companies has been well advanced, the current government must squarely face the most important issue of our time: Do Indians have a right to privacy and if so what does it entail in the age of data science?

Last year, the Supreme Court had cut straight to the heart of the issue in the Aadhaar petitions. On behalf of all Indian citizens, it had asked the current government to address the most basic questions in a democracy governed by the law: what are the privacy rights of its citizens and are they protected equally? Then, the government passed the Aadhaar Bill with the stated object of providing efficient, transparent and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services. In the present scenario where the Aadhaar Bill was passed as a money bill, the President does not have the power to return it with recommendations, but is mandated to give assent to it.

While multiple arguments have been advanced about the necessity of having Aadhaar, now that it is the law of the land those questions are rendered moot. To advance the discussion forward we must insist on a privacy and data collection framework that allows for UID to exist without its worst case scenarios turning into a harsh reality.

While it is arguable that the collection of vast troves of sensitive information is itself an invasion of privacy, its the use of this data that is rife with abuse. Innocuous data can  be used by many parties with severe consequence for innocent individuals. In the absence of any clear framework about collection, access and sharing of data, it can be shared widely and retained for years without the public ever knowing.

The essence
Privacy—as we use the word in our conversations now all around the world, and particularly when we talk about the net— really means three things.

The first is secrecy, which our ability to keep messages “private,” so that their content is known only to those who we intend to receive them.

The second is anonymity, which is our ability to keep our messages—even when their content is open—obscure as to who has published them and who is receiving them. It is very important that anonymity is an interest we can have in both our publishing and our reading.

The third is autonomy, which is our ability to make our life decisions free of any force which has violated our secrecy or our anonymity.

These three are the principal components of the mixture that we call “privacy”.  A precondition to the order that we call “democracy”, “ordered liberty”, “self-government”, to the particular scheme that we call freedom.
Without secrecy, democratic self-government is impossible. Because people may not discuss public affairs with those they choose, excluding those with whom they do not wish to converse.
Anonymity is necessary for the conduct of democratic politics. That autonomy is vitiated by the wholesale invasion of secrecy and privacy, that free decision making is impossible in a society where every move is monitored.

The government cannot adopt the posture that only one aspect of government’s protective responsibility matters — that the costs of privacy destruction can be imposed upon the people in return for subsidies, or any other social benefit on which they absolutely depend.

The contours of the government’s positive vision for Digital India—far more majestic, complex and potentially transformative in the lives of all Indian citizens—though now emerging, will take much more effort, public and private, and much public dialogue to fulfill.  Here the experts from all quarters, along with the citizen activists who were so vitally important in the last round, must come together to debate issues and implement compromises. This will require skilled knowledge and patient expert negotiation of details, as well as research reports and social media campaigning. But unless everyone’s attention is also unremittingly focused on individual privacy—a right that restricts all government in all contexts and must be respected by private market activity of all kinds everywhere on pain of overwhelming legal liability— the Government’s majestic ambitions could also prove the foundation of intolerable despotism.

Mishi Choudhary is Legal Director, Software Freedom Law Center

Featured image credit: Seb, CC BY 2.0/Flickr