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.


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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

10501 - Towards a database nation - The Hindu

September 27, 2016



Chinmayi Arun


The lack of a public debate on the effectiveness or safeguards created for the Central Monitoring System, NATGRID, and Aadhaar puts data at the sole discretion of the government

Although criminalisation of speech is distressing, other corrosive threats to our democracy and liberty are surging unnoticed and unchecked. There has been a sharp rise in state surveillance, government collection of data and government aggregation of big data sources. It appears that we are thoughtlessly mutating into what Jack Balkin calls the “National Surveillance State”. 

This is a governance form in which governments use surveillance, data collection, data mining and other such invasive methods to prevent crime, terrorist attacks and to deliver welfare services.

No one seems to have noticed that the Central Monitoring System (CMS) is already scanning our communication in real time in Delhi and Mumbai; or that the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), which links multiple government databases, aggregating all kinds of information, will be operational next year. No one has asked whether Aadhaar, with its access to our biometric identification and its connection with all kinds of databases from banking to health and scholarships, will be a part of NATGRID.

We have no idea how secure these databases are and have given no thought to what will happen if someone hacks them or misuses the sensitive information contained in them. Although major data breaches have been reported from entities ranging from the U.K. government to Adobe, Sony and Ashley Madison, it has not yet occurred to us that creating these databases means risking data breaches.

Government surveillance
It is the nature of politicians and governments to seek and consolidate power. Indian politicians and the Indian government are no different. Our National Intelligence Agency, precursor of the infamous Intelligence Bureau, is older than the British MI6. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is alleged to have put President Giani Zail Singh under surveillance, and reports indicate that this extended to having his office bugged.

The imbalance of power created by the state’s attempts at treating citizens like pawns is dangerously magnified by advances in digital technology that allow for easy monitoring of communication and access to large amounts of data. It has not helped that the Indian judiciary was shortsighted in its approach to phone tapping in the nineties. It responded to large-scale, unfettered government surveillance with weak safeguards that became obsolete very fast.

The problems with this have been highlighted in a piece by Arun Jaitley, the current Union Finance Minister, when the previous government was in power. He wrote “every citizen in India has a right to privacy”. In his powerfully argued piece, Mr. Jaitley pointed out that even access to citizens’ call data records violates privacy since it reveals their relationships and potentially confidential transactions.

This year, the CMS is actually being used to monitor our communication in Delhi and Mumbai, and its reach will be expanded gradually. This system has never been discussed meaningfully with the public, and no efforts have been made to explain what safeguards prevent its misuse.

In response to questions in Parliament, Law and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has clarified that law enforcement agencies get access to intercepted communication on a near-real-time basis through the CMS. He has also made it clear that such interception will take place secretly, without the involvement of the telecommunications service provider, eliminating the only third party that ever had any idea of government excesses in this context.

This creates two potential problems. One, of course, is that the state will use the system for surveillance excesses as it has done in the past. The other is that whoever actually executes the ambiguous ‘automated process’ through which the government accesses our communication in real time may abuse this access to private information for personal gain.

Government databases
In addition to the CMS, the government has spent approximately Rs.150 crore from 2009 onwards on the NATGRID, which is supposed to offer law enforcement agencies data access to 21 providers such as airlines, banks, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, railways and telecommunications operators by 2017. NATGRID is classified among the ‘intelligence and security’ organisations and is exempted from the Right to Information Act.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor asked about potential parliamentary scrutiny of NATGRID in 2015, and the government responded saying it considers the current oversight mechanism adequate.

In the meantime, the controversial Aadhaar project is functional without any meaningful public debate or cost-benefit analysis. The identity number is being pushed aggressively by the government. For example, citizens are pressured to enrol by making critical services contingent on Aadhaar numbers. Most people would enrol if told that their bank account, pension, scholarship, driving licence or voter identification card is in jeopardy.

It makes matters worse that people are lining up to add their children to this database. Given that no one can opt out of the database once enrolled, this is a very serious human rights violation. It does not offer adults a way to withdraw consent and does not offer the next generation the opportunity to reverse their parents’ decisions.

A dark future
It appears that we are travelling fast towards a complete transformation into a National Surveillance State. This journey may be irreversible. However, there is a lot that we could have done, and that we can do, to mitigate the imbalance of power created in this state.

We have had no public debate about the effectiveness or safeguards created for NATGRID and Aadhaar. We have put our children’s personal information in these databases without any information about the resilience of these databases in the face of sophisticated cybercriminals. We have not asked how easily they may be hacked, and what the consequences will be if our data are compromised or misused.

Even the United States lets its citizens know when public databases are breached. Aadhaar and NATGRID might be hacked several times a year for all we know; no one is obligated to tell us. The government wants to add our travel and bank information to these databases, and is pressuring all the phone manufacturers to integrate with them. This renders us powerless and steps around our painstakingly crafted civil liberties to hand control of our lives and information back to the state.

Chinmayi Arun is Executive Director of the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University, Delhi, and Faculty Associate of the Berkman Klein Centre at Harvard University. Parul Sharma helped with the research for this piece.