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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Monday, July 10, 2017

11588 - An argument without Aadhaar - Indian Express



Traditional understanding of privacy may not suffice in an age of digital identities. Supporters and opponents of UIDAI are missing the point

Written by Subhashis Banerjee | Updated: July 5, 2017 12:05 am

In the Aadhaar debate, strident dogmatic positions have far outnumbered credible peer-reviewed analyses, and the proponents and opponents have mostly talked past each other. There have been alarming reports of exclusion and disruption in social welfare but it is still unclear whether they are due to fixable teething troubles, careless deployment or something more fundamental, and what proportion is affected. The opponents too have been unable to make precise how exactly Aadhaar violates privacy, nor have the UIDAI and ministerial proclamations declaring Aadhaar to be perfectly safe engendered confidence.

Moreover, trivial and easily fixable examples of privacy breaches have been turned into big issues. Whatever were the initial plans, the government clearly wants to use the unique identification of Aadhaar to enforce compliance in a variety of schemes by avoiding duplicates. The opponents want Aadhaar to be voluntary and if that makes it a lame duck instrument, so be it. And the potential benefits of Aadhaar beyond de-duplication, for example in analytics, have not even been discussed much.

The disagreement has inevitably shifted to the courts. However, in the recent Aadhaar-PAN linkage case, several arguments from both sides were specious and not well analysed. No expert was examined and the judgement — though perhaps fair under the circumstances — did not inspire confidence in the process.
For example, the petitioner’s argument on legislative competence — that the linkage cannot be made mandatory in the IT Act without first removing the contradiction from the original Aadhaar Act — appeared to be compelling. Yet the court dismissed it. However, even if the court had upheld it, the objection was more on procedural grounds and not fundamental in nature, and at best the government would have been forced to go back and amend the original act.

The petitioner’s arguments under Article 14, that the mandate discriminates between different classes of taxpayers, must have sounded tenuous even to the petitioners and were summarily rejected. 

The argument that PAN cancellation violates the right to practice any profession was accepted, but so were the state’s arguments on the need for de-duplication. The court also accepted, without question or calling for any analysis, the state’s assertion that biometric de-duplication is perfect. Partial relief was given to non-Aadhaar holders on the ground that cancellation of PAN will cause hardship.


The petitioners had put forth another set of problematic arguments based on dignity and bodily autonomy, on the state’s right of eminent domain over the human body and on informational self-determination. The court deferred them for consideration by a larger bench, along with all issues related to privacy. The mandated use of Aadhaar for IT is egalitarian, and any perceived indignity of fingerprinting is due to prejudice. Moreover, fingerprints and iris scans (both can be contact-less) are fundamentally no different from facial photographs; they are images and not parts of one’s body. They can be used for matching and de-duplication either manually or automatically. They differ only in efficacy and not in principle. Unfortunately, the response from the state — claiming that the state indeed has a right over the human body — was irrelevant and disproportionate.
The question then is: Can the state insist on an identification mechanism? If so, under what circumstances? What are the limits of informational self-determination? Note that the state has already assumed this right, many years back without much protest, by making PAN cards with photographs mandatory for tax returns. The purpose even then was de-duplication, only the methods and their efficacy were different.
So, the main issue is privacy, which the court has been deferring, and little has been said on it to enable an informed decision. On the one hand, the state’s position that Aadhaar is safe because UIDAI stores only minimal data required for biometric matching and demographic details, is untenable. The government and UIDAI cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility of protecting users from privacy breaches through possible correlation attacks on linked databases. Further, the possibilities of insider attacks also need to be considered.
On the other hand, the opponent’s claim — that collecting biometric information and storing them in a central database and linking multiple databases through the Aadhaar number fundamentally violates privacy — is also without any careful evaluation of a precise threat model. For example, PAN cards are already linked to bank accounts, ITR and major purchases. How does linking Aadhaar increase the possibilities for correlation attacks? Why is making the Aadhaar number public more dangerous than making PAN public? Biometric and demographic details are publicly available anyway, and anybody determined enough can obtain these from touched objects and using a powerful camera even without the victim’s cooperation.
Clearly, it will be unsafe to use biometrics for authentication, to access bank accounts for example, but what about only for identity verification and de-duplication? Surely we need to exhaustively enumerate the possible ways in which privacy may be compromised and model an attack surface? Only then can the questions related to privacy protection, either through technical or legal means, even be asked. The assertion that privacy protection is impossible with biometrics and a global ID is far from established.
It may not be enough to apply a traditional understanding of privacy to the new scenarios presented by digital identity and the internet. The need of the hour is for our institutions to wake up and carry out conservative, detailed and rigorous analysis of all issues involved — social, economic, technical and legal. Till then, it will be best to go slow with Aadhaar, engage, analyse, correct, and ensure that there are no hardships.
The writer is professor, department of computer science and engineering, IIT Delhi