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 26, 2017

10917 - Hello Aadhaar, Goodbye Privacy BY JEAN DRÈZE - The Wire



Far from ensuring that your identity information is secure, the government is selling it (or is, at least, authorised to sell it) to anyone who has your number and cares to pay the fees.

File photo of Aadhaar cards. Credit: PTI

How would you feel if you lived in a country where everyone’s identity information (name, address, date of birth, photograph – whatever the government decides) is stored in an open-access database? Think about it, because India is nearly there, with some minor restrictions on the content and terms of access of the database.

To understand this, we must make the effort of decoding Section 8 of the Aadhaar Act, despite its opaque – perhaps purposely so – wording. But first, some background.

In the Aadhaar Act, a person’s “identity information” has two components: demographic information and biometric information. Demographic information includes details “related to the name, date of birth, address and other relevant information of an individual,” collected when an Aadhaar number is issued. Demographic information explicitly precludes a few specific details, such as caste and religion, but otherwise, it is basically whatever the government decides. Further, the Act allows the government to require you to inform the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) if your demographic information changes – say, if you have a new address.

Biometric information includes photograph, fingerprints, iris scan, and – once again – whatever “other biological attributes of an individual” the government may decide. The Act also uses the concept of “core biometric information,” which is defined in the same way except that the word “photograph” is omitted. 

The boundary between core biometric information and other biometric information can, yet again, be modified by the government, except that core biometric information must include fingerprints and iris scan by definition.

Coming back to Section 8, it is concerned with “authentication”. On this, there was a massive foundational change between an earlier draft of the Act (the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010) and the final version, the Aadhaar Act 2016. In the earlier version, which corresponds to the original discourse on Aadhaar, authentication was just a yes/no response. You give your Aadhaar number, along with your fingerprints (or iris scan) and the system verifies whether the two match, in other words, whether you are the person who legitimately holds that number.

In the Aadhaar Act, however, authentication is a completely different thing. When it submits an Aadhaar number, the “requesting entity” (any “agency or person” who is willing to pay the fees) can now ask for any aspect of that person’s identity information, except for the core biometric information.

Everything else, including photograph, can be shared by UIDAI with the requesting entity. To illustrate, if you use your Aadhaar number to buy a sim card, the company can use it to access all your identity information, minus the core biometrics.

The foundational shift that occurred between the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010 (NIDAI) and the Aadhaar Act 2016 is clear from their respective definitions of authentication:

NIDAI 2010: “The Authority shall respond to an authentication query with a positive or negative response or with any other appropriate response excluding any demographic information and biometric information.” (emphasis added)

Aadhaar Act 2016: “The Authority shall respond to an authentication query with a positive, negative or any other appropriate response sharing such identity information excluding any core biometric information.” (emphasis added)

To be fair, two safeguards are in place in the Aadhaar Act. One is that the requesting entity must inform you about the use it proposes to make of your identity information. But who reads the fine print of the terms and conditions when buying a sim card, or before clicking “I agree” when installing new software? 

The second safeguard is that the requesting entity cannot publish or display your Aadhaar number (or your core biometric information, but that is not accessible to a requesting entity in the first place). Note, however, that nothing prevents a requesting entity from publishing or displaying other identity information, as long as it has informed the concerned person.


In light of Section 8, there is something highly misleading about the recent debate on whether the central identities data repository (the store of identity information held by the UIDAI) is “secure”. This repository is not supposed to be inaccessible. 

On the contrary, the Aadhaar Act puts in place a framework for sharing the identity information in that database, minus the core biometrics. Further, the government (read UIDAI) has virtually unlimited powers to prescribe the content of the identity information, the terms of access and much more.

How did this little-noticed shift in the nature of Aadhaar take place? One plausible answer is that the leading lights of Aadhaar woke up to the business value of the database. By this I do not mean the money that can be made by selling identity information contained in the repository – under the Act, the authentication fees must be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India. The point, rather, is that private access to the repository opens up plenty of business opportunities. This is all the more so with the growing corporate interest in ‘big data’.

The recent discourse on Aadhaar stresses its value as an ‘identity platform’ around which countless apps can be built.

In short, far from ensuring that your identity information is secure, the UIDAI is selling it (or is, at least, authorised to sell it) to anyone who has your number and cares to pay the fees. Only the core biometrics are protected.

This situation must be read in light of the fact that, for practical purposes, Aadhaar is compulsory, or will be compulsory very soon. The claim that Aadhaar is a voluntary facility was nothing more than “smart demand evangelisation,” as some champions of Aadhaar like to call their propaganda. In line with their hopes, Aadhaar is all set to become universal and ubiquitous.

That brings me to the biggest danger of Aadhaar: its power as a tool of mass surveillance. This is, possibly, far more serious than the issue of confidentiality of the database. Once Aadhaar becomes an all-purpose identification tool, your life will be as transparent to the state as a contact lens. Details of your railway bookings, phone call records, financial transactions and so on will be accessible to the government at the click of a mouse without invoking any special powers (it is only to go a little further, like tapping your phone, that special powers – readily available – will need to be invoked). This is all the more worrying as the government has already shown an ominous propensity to control, or try to control, our thoughts and actions. 

Feel like giving up your Aadhaar number? Too bad, there is no provision for this in the Aadhaar Act.

Jean Dreze is a visiting professor at the Department of Economics, Ranchi University.