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, July 27, 2017

11650 - Mapping a Threat Model for the Aadhaar Ecosystem - The Wire


What are the various ways in which privacy in a setup like Aadhaar may be breached?


A man registering for Aadhaar. Something as important as Aadhaar requires due-diligence. Credit: PTI

The Aadhaar privacy debate has not struggled to make  progress, with proponents claiming that Aadhaar is safe and the opponents claiming that Aadhaar necessarily violates privacy. As argued here and here, the discussion is uninformative without first modelling an attack surface by precisely laying out the possible ways in which privacy may be breached.

Moreover, this enumeration must be based on a comprehensive analysis of policy, legal and data security considerations.

Privacy breaches in a setup like Aadhaar can happen through: authentication and identification without consent, through illegal profiling by correlation of identities across different data silos and through illegal use of data in the central repository.

All other types of privacy compromises are derived from or are special cases of the above. The onus ought to be on the designers of the system to convince its users that there are reasonable protections against these potential attacks.

Authentication and identification without consent
Authentication to make payments – as an example – requires two independent pieces of information: identity and an authentication credential. Common examples of identity are login or email IDs, cryptographic public keys and ATM or smart cards; some common authentication credentials are passwords (including OTPs), PINs and cryptographic private keys. Identity may be considered (limited) public information but an authentication credential must necessarily be private – a secret that is known only to the user. Moreover, authentication must be a conscious process that requires active participation by a user, but not necessarily so for identity verification.

Biometrics, which are external to one’s body and can easily be harvested without consent, are poor authentication credentials because of possibilities of false presentations. They may be excellent for identity verification under the adversarial oversight of the person or entity requiring the verification. The use of biometrics as authentication credentials for applications like financial transactions is ill-conceived and requires immediate review.

Point of sale and enrolment devices are the most likely sources of leakage of biometric and other sensitive data, which can be used to illegally authenticate or identify. These devices need to be registered with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and authenticated during run-time to ensure that they have not been tampered with. The UIDAI is already taking welcome steps in this direction.

Profiling by correlation of identities across data silos
Identification and profiling without consent by correlating different data silos are undoubtedly big threats to privacy and civil liberty. However, with the current state of affairs with digitisation, linking different data silos using Aadhaar does not seem to add significantly to the attack surface.

It is true that an individual or an entity with access to multiple databases linked with Aadhaar can uniquely identify any individual in them, leading to possible illegal profiling. But such unique correlation attacks can also be carried out using other identifiers such as mobile or PAN numbers. Even if all such unique identifiers are removed from the data, linking databases for unique identification is fairly straightforward using the demographic and personal data that we provide in the course of routine business. In fact such correlation and profiling, even without unique identifiers, are common for online targeted advertising and will be a trivial task for an entity like say the National Intelligence Grid.

So the risk of illegal profiling does not originate as much from Aadhaar as it does from the modern needs of digital record keeping in different silos and the Aadhaar privacy debate has drawn timely attention to the issue. What is required is a thorough analysis of what kind of profiling are legitimate requirements for governance and codifying them in a law. All other kinds of profiling should be prevented.

This is not to say that using the same UID for all applications does not make it worse. It adds to the vulnerability by making unique identification easy even for a layman. The London School of Economics identity project report suggests cryptographic embedding of a unique global ID into separate local IDs for each application domain, thereby making cross identification using the local IDs impossible except for the ID granting authority. The UIDAI should definitely consider this possibility.

A popular solution to prevent correlation is to systematically corrupt the databases using differential privacy techniques to make one indistinguishable from the other. However, such data corruption may impede legitimate governance requirements.

The only reasonable solution, in our contention, will be to prevent sensitive databases from coming together, except for legitimate purposes and only through automatic means. There also has to be national standards for data collection and protection, not only at the UIDAI but also at other sensitive data domains.

Insider attacks
On the face of it, the data protection measures adopted by the UIDAI appear to be standard and adequate against external threats, but it is not obvious that they are adequate against insider threats. Insider attacks, perhaps at the behest of powerful entities in the state machinery itself, are the biggest threat to privacy and civil liberty. Maintaining data encrypted and distributed within an organisation is not adequate protection against insider attacks if the decryption keys also reside within the same organisation.

For effective protection against insider threats it is imperative to ensure that no manual inspection of sensitive data and transaction logs is ever possible, and that data can only be accessed through pre-audited, tamper proof, digitally signed computer programs which are true to the legal and policy frameworks. Moreover, such programs must be trustworthy and do precisely and only what they are supposed to do, even when the underlying computing, network and storage infrastructure are untrustworthy (equivalent to already been hacked).
This will require an independent third party that can play the adversarial role of an online auditor and also that of a key-keeper. The auditor has to ascertain that the programs are true to specifications, sign and seal them, and authenticate them during run-time to ensure that they have not been tampered with. The necessary policy and legal frameworks need to be put in place.

Indeed, we do believe that there are tools and techniques from computer science that may, at least for practical purposes if not provably, offer such protection in the UIDAI and other such sensitive setups. Something as important as Aadhaar definitely requires such due-diligence.

A detailed research paper on this issue, written by the authors, can be found here. Shweta Agrawal is professor of computer science at IIT Madras. Subhashis Banerjee and Subodh Sharma are professors of computer science at IIT Delhi.
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