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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Friday, June 23, 2017

11545 - Analysing Aadhaar through the Prism of National Security- IDSA



Kritika Roy is Post Graduate Scholar in Manipal University.

June 22, 2017

One of the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee, which was established to review the state of national security in the wake of the Kargil intrusions, was the issue of “Multi-purpose National Identity” cards to villagers living in conflict zones. It was subsequently decided to extend this scheme to all citizens, and that became the inception point of Aadhaar. The main motive for this expansion was to ensure the welfare of citizens by relatively easing their accessibility to various government schemes via a single identification document. 

This led to the establishment of a dedicated institution for rolling out the Aadhaar work called the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on 28 January 2009. Nandan Nilekani (an Infosys co-founder) was appointed as the chairman of UIDAI on 23 June 2009. He launched the official logo and brand name of Aadhaar by April 2010. After years of debates and deliberations, the Aadhaar finally came into effect on 11 March 2016.1 

As the Aadhaar project made progress, simultaneously the surrounding debates saw a tectonic shift – from frequent complaints about the display of incorrect data or lack of clarity over its significance to graver issues of cyber security, identity theft or data breaches. Whether the government is well equipped to handle something like the Aadhaar database still remains a part of the current discourse.

Role of UIDAI
The UIDAI allots a unique identifier (Aadhaar Number) to each citizen and deposits their biometric and demographic data in a Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR).2 

Aadhaar or Unique Identification Number (UID) is a 12-digit number that serves as a unique identifier for Indian citizens. Aadhaar’s database has the records of over 1.12 billion registered users and is rapidly becoming the government’s base for public welfare and citizen services scheme.3

Aadhaar authentication process validates an identity with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, using one of the six demographic fields (name, date of birth, gender, address, mobile or email) along with either biometrics or One Time Password (OTP). The process is designed in such a way that neither the purpose of the transaction nor any other context is known to the Aadhaar system in order to ensure the safety of any transaction. In addition, the UIDIA document also claims that “Every enrolment data packet is ‘always’ stored on disk in PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) encrypted form and is never encrypted or modified during transit making it completely inaccessible to any system/persons.”4

Contemporary Discourse
In Budget 2017, Aadhaar was made mandatory for availing Permanent Account Number (PAN) cards and filing Income Tax Returns. Furthermore, the central government is standing firm on its statement that it would provide social welfare benefits only to those with UID numbers by June 30, 2017. This interlinking of Aadhaar with various utility platforms (banks, PANs, birth certificates, etc.) will facilitate interconnectedness by making a network of networks. That, in turn, would pave the way for more accountability and transparency, although at the same time such a massive scale of digitisation and data centralisation may attract several threats and hence are crucial to outline. Especially given the numerous instances of cyberattacks like the one on the Bangladeshi bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that allowed hackers to steal more than USD 81 million5 or the Wannacry ransomware attack that affected almost 150 countries, have given rise to concerns over cyber security. In this context, the question remains as to whether Aadhaar is a readymade factory for criminal minds?

Security Challenges
As Aadhaar gained the currency of “proof of identity”, most checkpoints like railways, airports and even protected areas have started using it as a source of identity. But in reality Aadhaar in its physical form is just a plain card and can be downloaded from anywhere or a coloured printout that can be printed and may look as good as the original. It does not have a hologram or digital signature but rather a QR (Quick Response) code, which is just an image representation of a text and not a security feature.

Another flaw in Aadhaar’s security came to the limelight when a random blogger talked about how easy it is to access Aadhaar information with just a basic Google search.6 

With the exponential growth in cybercrime, this centralised database may provide valuable information to criminals. This might lead to either illegal tracking of individuals or identification without consent. Such records may also aid in providing data on the precise location, time and context of the services availed by that individual. Moreover, sensitive financial information of individuals and companies may also be exposed through breaches of the UID database or internal collusion. An example of data breaches was seen when UIDAI temporarily halted Aadhaar payments by Axis Bank, Suvidhaa Infoserve and eMudhra because of unauthorised authentication and impersonation through the illegal storing of Aadhaar biometrics. This infringement caught the UIDAI’s attention after one individual conducted almost 397 biometric transactions between 14 July 2016 and 19 February 2017.7

In a report by an investigative website, those associated with the Aadhaar project “agreed to make Aadhaar Cards for applicants without any proof of identification or address” for charges ranging from Rs 500 to 2500. The website asserted that almost anyone, “be it Indian or an illegal immigrant can get an Aadhaar Card made without any proof of identity. More importantly, they get an Indian identity.”8 

Though there were several reported cases of such activities, one that garnered a lot of attention was reported last month when a UIDAI operator in Bhilwara’s Mandal area tried to outwit the authorities by trying to get an Aadhaar card for slain terrorist Osama Bin Laden. However, the UIDAI got alerted due to the discrepancies in the personal data form and filed a complaint against the operator.9

Official Outlook
Time and again the critics of Aadhaar have been arguing that India is at the risk of becoming a surveillance state, but the Government of India does not, however, appear to be on the same page with academics and analysts who are targeting Aadhaar and its security features.10 

In fact, in an interview, Union Minister for Electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad, stated that most of the criticism is misplaced and that Aadhaar is “completely safe, secure and robust.” He further added that these security concerns could just be the opposition’s way of bogging down the Aadhaar project. Even Nandan Nilekani, in his book Rebooting India, talks about all the benefits that Aadhaar offers and also addresses the security concerns that have been raised. The critics tend to forget that the idea is to empower the citizens and not the state. Since its inception, Aadhaar has adopted the principle of security by design, which ensures that no agency is able to track and profile any individual. In addition, the Aadhaar Act itself lays down several guidelines for protection of Information (Chapter VI) and subsequent punishment and penalties (Chapter VII). Adding to this view, one official spokesperson of the Axis Bank said “In case a person misuses biometrics, it is much easier to trace him using Aadhaar-enabled payments system (AEPS) as compared to other modes of digital transactions such as internet banking and card payments and that itself is the biggest security that Aadhaar can provide.”11

Moreover, to safeguard critical data, UIDAI will upgrade all pre-existing biometric devices with software aimed at protecting the security of the transmitted data. UIDAI will also ensure that all the new devices are registered under it from 1 June 2017. Indeed, on 22 February 2017, UIDAI had presented a proposal to the IT ministry on registration of biometric public devices to guarantee the safety of transactions and end-to-end traceability of the authentication process.

Conclusion
Though there might be several prevalent concerns over Aadhaar’s data security, these do not outweigh the benefits it has to offer. Besides, one cannot entirely overlook the government’s efforts to make Aadhaar more secure. All the technical glitches that are coming to the forefront are being immediately taken care of. UIDAI has also ensured that most of the biometric information gets encrypted by a UIDAI key at the chip level of any digital device, thus making it almost impossible for anyone to breach it. Privacy still remains a point of paradox and, in the absence of concrete privacy laws, citizens might be subjected to mass surveillance in the name of national security. But, contrary to the ongoing discourse, minimal monitoring is indeed required by the state to protect citizens. As of now, it is safe to tag Aadhaar’s security features as a “work in progress” rather than a foolproof arrangement. The government still requires much more dedicated, informed and comprehensive security policies and accelerated efforts to realise Aadhaar’s full effectiveness. Thus, with appropriate measures on the security front, Aadhaar can be associated with numerous benefits like a cashless society, reduction of voter fraud and legitimate allocation of subsidies.

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.