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.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

11657 - How India Grew the World’s Most Invasive Biometrics Database

July 25,2017.



Many people in India are born in rural areas. For those who are born outside of a hospital and don’t have a birth certificate, activities such as getting a bank account, seeking employment, claiming benefits, and getting insurance can be almost impossible. For the government, having large numbers of unregistered people means an inability to effectively collect all due taxes.
Since 2009, India has been steadily working on its solution to the problem. It has been growing the most detailed and invasive biometrics database in the world. That database is called Aadhaar. It requires all Indians to hand over their data for a central database.
In the coming weeks, India’s top court will pass a verdict on whether the nation’s Aadhaar biometric identity database is legal. The decision will affect over a billion people who are currently lodged in the system. The verdict has the power to decide whether the people of India have a fundamental right to privacy.

A Growing Problem
Despite being introduced in 2009, it wasn’t until new legislation was passed last year that the scope of the biometric database was suddenly and massively increased. At that time, the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act gave a statutory body called the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) the right to collect and store data about all Indian citizens.
Since then, the Aadhaar database has been growing quickly. Citizens are required to hand over their photograph, and provide iris and fingerprint scans, in order to access basic necessities. These important amenities include benefits, compensation, legal entitlements, scholarships, and nutrition programs.
In fact, Aadhaar has become so pervasive that it is impossible to avoid. This has brought constant criticism from privacy advocates. Now, the Supreme Court in New Delhi will decide whether the invasive Aadhaar system is legal or whether it should be abolished (or at the very least modified).
Not Likely to Go Away
Unfortunately, the draconian system has been referred to as “too big to fail.” It is the largest and most invasive database of its kind anywhere in the world. Aadhaar currently holds the biometrics of 1.154 billion citizens. Due to the length of time that it has been around, and the forceful manner in which the government has been rolling it out since last March, it seems unlikely that the Aadhaar system will suddenly be stopped in its tracks.  


Aadhaar Card – How Does It Work?
The Aadhaar database allocates every Indian citizen a unique 12 digit code. Attached to that code is a vast repository of data about the citizen. That data is held centrally by the UIDAI. In the database are names, addresses, phone numbers and other personal details.
Perhaps most concerning of all, however, is that over the last seven years the database has slowly been aggregating the fingerprint, iris, and facial scans of over a billion citizens. Those scans have been accumulated with the help of tech giants such as Microsoft and Samsung, who have actively been altering their products in order to comply with India’s Aadhaar system.
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the adoption of the Aadhaar system has become a day-to-day necessity. It is used when filing tax returns, as proof of identity for buying a phone, as a necessity for getting utilities connected, and even when conducting financial transactions online.

Gas for Biometrics

It doesn’t stop there. The use of an Aadhaar identity is now mandatory for impoverished women who want to take part in the ‘Ujjwala’ welfare program. That scheme was introduced in May of 2016. It helps women who fall below the poverty line to get gas connections for their homes.
Since Ujjwala was introduced, it has provided free liquefied gas petroleum connections to 20 million women’s homes. All of those women have fallen victim to the biometric database. The aim is to help 50 million families within three years. This will allow Modi’s  government to plug the holes in its database (which consist mainly of people living in the most rural and remote areas).
What’s more, if the UIDAI has its way, in the next year the Aadhaar card will also become mandatory for booking railway and other travel tickets online. With that in mind, it is easy to see just how pervasive Aadhaar has become and why so many people are against it.
Opposition
Aadhaar is truly terrifying, which is why people like Rajeev Chandrasekhar – an Indian legislator and entrepreneur – are fighting against the oppressive system in the New Delhi court. Chandrasekhar’s attorney, Sajan Poovayya, has gone on the record expressing her client’s distaste at the way that technology is being used to gather biometric data about Indian citizens:

“My surrender of a fingerprint to unlock my iPhone is not for anything else except opening my iPhone.”

That quote alone is enough to send a shiver down your spine. It highlights the profoundly underhanded Orwellian methods being used by the Indian government to collect biometric data.
Privacy Not a “Fundamental Right”
So far, during the course of the case, lawyers have pointed out that people willingly hand over their data to private corporations such as Facebook. According to those government attorneys, if people are willing to let private firms know so much about them, allowing the government to have their data shouldn’t be a concern. After all, they argue, the government only wants that data to help Indian citizens.
In fact, according to the Indian government’s attorneys, privacy shouldn’t even be considered a fundamental right. Their position is that the Aadhaar system reduces welfare fraud and improves social inclusion. In addition, they claim it helps with national security (and if it doesn’t now, then it definitely will when it is integrated with the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network Systems in the near future).
Here to Help
It is true that Aadhaar can be an advantage for those born outside of hospital who don’t have a birth certificate. Thus there can be no real argument against allowing people to voluntarily take on an Aadhaar identity card.
There are claims that India has “made the largest technological breakthrough of any nation in living memory.” However, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), making Aadhaar mandatory for more than 50 services means the system is just as likely to deny people’s statutory rights as it is to provide opportunity.
In addition, the government can use Aadhaar to cross reference information it already holds, such as people’s driving licenses, ration cards, and financial histories. This makes Aadhaar by far the world’s most invasive surveillance tool.


Danger of Hacking
Previous hacks (such as the OPM hack in the US) demonstrate just how dangerous these kinds of databases are. The opportunity for identity thieves is enormous. It has already been proven that it is possible to hack an iris scanner with a photo and a contact lens.
With that in mind, India’s system is bound to come under fire from cybercriminals, and possibly even foreign states. In fact, there have already been reports of a leak involving 130 million people’s Aadhaar data.  
As such, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that a billion people’s sensitive data was being sold on the dark web at some point in the future. Bear in mind that India accounts for 17.2% of the entire world’s population, and you get an idea of the scope of the problem.
The court case continues this week, with a verdict expected within the next fortnight.
Opinions are the writer’s own.
Title image credit: Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock.com
Image credits: Ekaterina_Minaeva/Shutterstock.com, NothingIsEverything/Shutterstock.com, John Kehly/Shutterstock.com

Written by Ray Walsh
I am a freelance journalist and blogger from England. I am highly interested in politics and in particular the subject of IR. I am an advocate for freedom of speech, equality, and personal privacy. On a more personal level I like to stay active, love snowboarding, swimming and cycling, enjoy seafood, and love to listen to trap music.