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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Thursday, April 6, 2017

10981 - India’s National ID Program May Be Turning The Country Into A Surveillance State - Buzzfeed



For seven years, India’s government has been scanning the irises and fingerprints of its citizens into a massive database. The once voluntary program was intended to fix the country’s corrupt welfare schemes, but critics worry about its Orwellian overtones.


BuzzFeed News Reporter
posted on Apr. 4, 2017, at 5:18 p.m.

In February 2017, Microsoft announced Skype Lite, a brand-new edition of Skype just for India. A more spartan version of Microsoft’s marquee messaging service, Skype Lite is designed to run well on cheap Android phones and to handle calls over flaky 2G data networks — the trappings of an app made by a large, wealthy corporation for a large and largely poor emerging market. But that’s not all it does.

Skype Lite also taps into a giant government-owned database filled with the demographic and biometric records — names, dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers, photographs, iris and fingerprint scans — of more than a billion Indian citizens.
Touting that feature onstage at a launch event in Mumbai, Microsoft’s executives offered the most vanilla of demos: a job interview over Skype.

“If I want to hire somebody, I would feel more comfortable knowing that I am indeed talking to the right candidate,” said Skype engineer Rahul Malegaonkar. To do that in in Skype Lite, he explained, all an interviewee would need to do is punch in their 12-digit government-issued UID — short for unique identifier — which the app would check against the government database.

Some 1.12 billion Indians — more than 99% of citizens over 18 — now have UIDs thanks to this authentication system. It’s called Aadhaar — “support” or “foundation” in Hindi — and it is the largest, most ambitious national identity program in the world.


At an event in Mumbai held in February, Microsoft showed off Skype Lite’s built-in support for Aadhaar in the most vanilla of demos: a job interview over Skype. Microsoft
When it was first rolled out in 2009, Aadhaar was envisioned as a voluntary identity system that would help the Indian government crack down on fraud in the country’s notoriously corrupt welfare system. But over the years, it’s become effectively mandatory as the government and private sector alike rely on it to provide all manner of identity-linked services to India’s vast and diverse population. Now, less than a decade after its debut, Aadhaar is, for many Indian citizens, a proverbial “one ID to rule them all.” Not only is it a means of accessing India’s welfare system, it’s tied to everything from banking and internet services to international travel and marriage registration — and, of course, Skype.
Onstage at the company’s Mumbai event, Malegaonkar’s Skype Lite app displayed a large green checkmark along with dummy name, address, and date of birth information.
“Yep, it seems like we have a match,” he exclaimed, as the audience clapped wildly.

Meanwhile, India’s privacy experts rolled their eyes. “A proprietary software company harvests personal information from a centralized government database using unaudited technology in a jurisdiction without a proper privacy or data protection law,” said Sunil Abraham, director of the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), an influential Bangalore-based think tank. “Sounds perfect to me!”

A Microsoft spokesperson assured BuzzFeed News that Skype Lite was compliant with local regulations. “We don’t store any users’ Aadhaar information,” the company explained. “Rather, we pass [the details] through to the government’s central Aadhaar database.”

Former Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia with UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani during the launch of new Aadhaar-based services and permanent enrollment centers in New Delhi. Mail Today / Getty Images

Who am I?
For millions of Indians, government-vetted identification has been elusive for decades. This is particularly true in India’s most impoverished regions, where a lack of simple birth or address documentation can lock people out of crucial services many take for granted — bank accounts, insurance, pensions, government services. With a very simple set of objectives, Aadhaar was designed to change that. It would provide every Indian with an official identity, and it would allow government agencies and private companies like Microsoft to authenticate that identity by plugging into a set of software application interfaces called the India Stack.
In 2009, the Indian government established the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) under the country’s IT ministry and tapped Nandan Nilekani, billionaire and co-founder of IT services juggernaut Infosys, to oversee it. Nilekani called Aadhaar a “turbocharged version of the Social Security number,” and a year later, the agency began collecting citizens’ demographic data — names, addresses, photographs, mobile numbers, iris scans, and all 10 fingerprints — and adding it to a centralized database.
Pitched as a panacea to welfare fraud by India’s ruling Congress party, Aadhaar was lauded by some of the biggest names in technology. Bill Gates called it a “world-class digital foundation,” and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said it was “pretty tremendous.” The Wall Street Journal called it “the most technologically and logistically complex national identification effort ever attempted.” After decades of being invisible, India’s poor would now simply authenticate themselves through their irises or fingerprints to receive their share of subsidized food and cooking fuel. The corruption that had plagued India’s welfare system was done for.
But in the years that followed, an increasingly vocal group of privacy activists, security experts, and citizens raised concerns about the implications of creating a vast database of biometric information for the population of an entire country. “Aadhaar is being converted into the world’s biggest surveillance engine,” Indian news website Scroll warned in a recent opinion piece.
And other critics sounded an equally troubling note: With the most intimate details of over a billion people in a database, what if Aadhaar were to be hacked?

No way out
“Indians have historically had different sets of information stored across different databases, such as their bank accounts, driver’s licenses, passports, accounts with cell phone carriers, and more,” said Nikhil Pahwa, editor of Indian technology news website MediaNama and a staunch Aadhaar critic. Traditionally, these weren’t linked to one another. “What Aadhaar aims to become is a single ID linking your entire life across dozens of these databases together,” he said. “This allows it to be used for mass surveillance and targeting very easily.”
While India’s Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that Aadhaar numbers are not and cannot be required of the country’s citizens, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get by without one. Indeed, Aadhaar’s critics complain that the Indian government has been shrewdly pushing it into broader usage by requiring it for things like driver’s license applications and renewals, and soon cell phone numbers.
Last month, the government passed a finance bill making it mandatory for every Indian who files tax returns to input their Aadhaar number. Asked if the government was forcing citizens to get Aadhaar despite the Supreme Court mandate, finance minister Arun Jaitley replied simply, “Yes, we are.”
In the future, Indians may be required to use Aadhaar to log on to public Wi-Fi hotspots, buy train tickets, access bank accounts, withdraw pension money, use matrimonial websites, and buy tickets for cricket matches — among other things.
Critics paint a grim picture of India with mandatory Aadhaar: an Orwellian state with every action of every citizen under constant scrutiny at all times.

Got it. It is compulsorily mandatory to voluntarily get yourself an Aadhaar card.

“All this is illegal and is in contempt of the Supreme Court,” Usha Ramanathan, a legal researcher and activist who has been a vocal opponent of the Aadhaar project ever since it launched, told BuzzFeed News. “The Aadhaar project is less about technology and more about technocracy.”
In November 2016, Ramanathan organized a daylong session in New Delhi that was attended by more than 50 people — lawyers, activists, social workers, researchers, academics, and journalists — to draw up a plan to spread awareness about privacy issues related to the Aadhaar program.


“Aadhaar is a sitting duck.”
“Aadhaar alters the relationship between the citizen and the state,” said Shyam Divan, a Supreme Court lawyer who has been fighting the project in the country’s highest court for years, and who was present at the event. “It’s concerning, because it tilts the balance so steeply in favor of the government.”
That concern is well grounded in reality. In March 2016, India’s parliament passed legislation giving federal agencies access to the entire Aadhaar database — all billion-plus names, fingerprints, irises, mobile numbers, addresses, and photographs — in the interest of “national security.” In February, the UIDAI was accused of trying to silence critics by filing a police complaint against a writer who wrote about the project’s data security vulnerabilities. And in March, the agency filed a criminal complaint against a television journalist who aired a segment showing how he was able to use a fake name along with his real one to get two different Aadhaar numbers.


Nandan Nilekani (left), the billionaire brain behind Aadhaar, interviews Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who has lauded the Aadhaar project, at an industry event in Bangalore in February. Nilekani has dismissed privacy and surveillance concerns around Aadhaar. - / AFP / Getty Images

“You can’t change your fingerprints”
Sunil Abraham, the CIS director, calls himself a “technological critic” of the Aadhaar platform. For years, he’s been warning of the security risks associated with a centralized repository of the demographic and biometric details of a billion or so people.
“Aadhaar is a sitting duck,” Abraham told BuzzFeed News. That’s not an unreasonable assessment considering that India’s track record for protecting people’s private data is far from stellar. Earlier this year, for example, a security researcher discovered a website that was leaking the Aadhaar demographic data of more than 500,000 minors. The website was subsequently shut down, but the incident raised questions about Aadhaar’s security protocols — particularly those around data shared with third parties.