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.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

10545 - Yahoo!: A cautionary tale

POLICY WATCH COLUMNS
Yahoo!: A cautionary tale
OCTOBER 19, 2016 00:37 IST

No Indian citizen can, or should, trust a story in which Aadhaar data security is never breached

On September 22, Yahoo! announced that the personal data of half a billion users had been stolen in 2014. The theft of data was attributed to “state-sponsored” hackers, which some informed sources in California and Washington, D.C. said meant the Chinese secret service. Subsequently, claims emerged about a cracker selling personal information of Yahoo! account users on the dark Web.

The company’s failure to discover or report the loss for two years will raise enormous problems for its embattled chief executive, Marissa Mayer, not to mention its covert participation in the surveillance of the incoming emails of its users. But it will be even more costly for the U.S. telecom giant, Verizon, which agreed to pay a bargain basement amount of $4.8 billion for the company in July. In the U.S., class action litigation for consumers’ damages from the loss of their private information (including mobile phone numbers, passwords, and addresses) is inevitable, and will be costly: Yahoo! may ultimately owe the people harmed by this theft far more than Verizon was willing to pay for it.

Making Aadhaar mandatory

But this is not just a story from afar for Indian citizens following the controversy about the onset of Aadhaar. Despite a crystal clear prohibition issued by the Supreme Court against making Aadhaar registration mandatory, the Indian government and enthusiastic parties in both State governments and industry have proceeded to adopt Aadhaar-based technology and impose requirements for Aadhaar registration for social services and benefits — from educational scholarships to booking railway tickets.

Investigations have revealed that dozens of Aadhaar requirements are in tension with the Supreme Court’s order. Contempt petitions brought against agencies for flouting the order will soon be heard by the Supreme Court. When the judges hear those petitions, they should be keeping Yahoo! in their thoughts.

The Yahoo! breach made news around the world primarily because of its scale: it’s really hard to lose the data on 500 million people. But not for Aadhaar. When completed, Aadhaar’s database will cover the world’s second largest population. If (or when) the database is compromised, it will not be possible for people to change their passwords. Biometric data is essentially unchangeable. Whether the retinal data currently stored, or the entire human genomes that may eventually be stored there, a breach in the Aadhaar data store will disperse information crucially identifying each Indian and that cannot be modified in response to the loss.

So, if Aadhaar is breached, what is the plan for the morning after the breach? Despite all the puffery, and all the claims of social subsidies immune to corruption and payments systems offering convenience to the unbanked millions, no one has so far intimated how Aadhaar’s proponents suggest we manage the obvious risk that stares us all in the face if Aadhaar registration becomes mandatory for most social purposes.

No perfect security

The plan cannot be for perfect security, operating flawlessly forever, for Aadhaar. No government can at present promise perfect security for even its most critical personnel data. No “platform” company, with all the immense profits earned from processing the data of hundreds of millions of customers, can claim to guarantee perfect security of customer data. No Indian citizen can, or should, trust a story in which Aadhaar data security is never breached.

Until we can see that the government has a realistic plan to manage the risks involved in placing all Indians’ proof of identity in one big box, making Aadhaar registration mandatory means imposing on every Indian citizen an unmanaged, possibly unmanageable, risk of digital environment catastrophe. 

Imposing permanent damage on the entire society because entrepreneurs and civil servants were in a hurry, because they couldn’t wait for the sober second thoughts imposed by the rule of law, even for the best of modernising and reformist motives, is a price far too high to pay. And until there is national privacy legislation, with a real system for making parties pay damages when they injure individuals by losing their critical personal information, the courts may have no opportunity or power to deal with the consequences of poor planning and hasty public policy after the fact.

Only the Supreme Court’s clarity and willingness to back its order with enforcement ensure that law — rather than public relations and the optimistic talk of the start-up culture — stands between our society and the consequences of hubris.

So when the judges convene to hear argument on the Aadhaar motions, they should have that emphatic punctuation at the end of Yahoo! very firmly in mind.

Eben Moglen is Founding-Director of Software Freedom Law Center and professor of law and legal history at Columbia University. Mishi Choudhary is technology lawyer and Executive Director at SFLC.IN, a donor-supported legal services organisation.