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Public Interest Exclusive
How Safe Is Your Identity Under Aadhar?

A lot of people believe that Aadhaar is just like – or even better than -- the Social Security Number system of US. This is a big myth

 
Awidely-held misconception in India is that the US social security number (SSN) is a perfect identity that simplified government administration. And that UIDAI’s (Unique Identification Authority of India) innovation of adding biometrics to the Aadhaar number has made it foolproof. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider a few facts. 
 
The US started issuing SSN in 1936 for social security programmes and retirement benefits; it quickly went on to become a national identifier and authentication number. It is now used for medical records, health insurance, bank accounts, credit cards, driving licences, utility accounts, marriage and death certificates and even private sector employee filings. 
 
SSN’s problems arose because of the linkage to various national databases, especially when the information went online along with photos, numbers and other identification details. Identity theft exploded. Significantly, the US realised the problem and initiated safeguards way back in 2004. A memorandum titled “Safeguarding against and Responding to the Breach of Personally Identifiable Information” asked various government departments, including the military, to “examine and identify instances” where collection or use of SSN is unnecessary, in 2007. All government agencies that issued identity cards with SSNs displayed were asked to remove the number. SSNs embedded in the bar code of military cards were also phased out since 2011. 
 
The US SSN website (www.socialsecurity.gov) has explicit warnings about identity theft and directions to a specialised national resource on how to fight the problem (www.idtheft.gov). Advocacy by www.theVirginiaWatchdog.com has now led to efforts to de-link various personal records from SSN. There is new legislation as well. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 prohibits display of SSN on drivers’ licences, state ID cards or motor-vehicle registrations. The Social Security Number Protection Act of 2010 prohibits the display of an individual’s SSN on cheques and payments. But it is, apparently, not enough. 
 
An article by Christopher Burns in the bangordailynews.com says that, in March 2015, the office of the inspector general of SSN found that 6.5 million Americans appear to be over 112 years old. They have active SSN numbers but are most likely to be dead. This, it says, is a big factor in identify theft and leakage of government funds. Mr Burns says improper payments by a range of federal programmes cost the US government a whopping $124.7 billion in fiscal 2014 according to the government accountability office. 
 
Clearly, a national identity number is not enough to prevent massive leakage of government funds, even in a rich and literate country like the US. All these learnings were clearly available even before the Aadhaar was born. Yet, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) launched a massive and expensive Aadhaar programme, without proper legislation passed by parliament after a national debate on security measures, restricting its issuance to Indian nationals and linking of national databases. Worse, there is no clarity on costs, renewal of biometrics (which change ever three to four years) or clarity on dealing with identity theft. Instead, successive governments have tried to roll it out by stealth, making it mandatory for admissions, property registration and government services. This continued unchecked until a handful of public interest litigations (PILs) finally reached the Supreme Court. The apex court ordered that Aadhaar cannot be mandated for availing government benefits and services; but its orders have been repeatedly flouted. 
 
Identity theft is new to India because most government records were not online or linked to a single identification. This will change. Unfortunately, most Indians, enamoured by the life-changing benefits of technology, are still to wake up to its dangerous flipside or the trauma of a stolen identity.  
 

 

User

COMMENTS

Lalit S Kathpalia

2 years ago

"Forgive them Lord for they know not what they are doing" is what I can say about the pursuit of AADHAR. Technology was and is supposed to make life simpler but not at the cost of privacy, corruption and ensuring the dignity of its users. The AADHAR program is not raising the stature of the Indian IT industry. It appears to me to be a project conceived to provide business to IT vendors. As a Project Manager I would ask what is the Business Case. As an IT architect I would ask how is this architecture good. As an expert of Object Oriented Technology I would ask why are we reinventing the wheel we already have the PAN card. As an Information Security Expert I have lots of questions. Also I can see through the entire Marketing, Selling business which Technology folks normally do. At the end of the day when this gets into the list of failed projects and a case study of what went wrong, I would love someone to refer to these articles and comments.

Sivasubramanian Pushpavanam

2 years ago

Sucheta dalal is a respected financial journalist. She needs to know more about how legislations work. Misuse of a law can be no excuse for abolition of a law. There is a law against pick pockets. don't we have pick pockets still?
Aadhar has been enormously successful in weeding out bogus LPG owners.About 50 crores of Indians have no identity card at all except perhaps EPIC. Now they have one. What happens to unreserved passengers in a train accident? Their kin do not receive any compensation because they are not identifiable.Privacy is an elitist concern.Since both the Govts. adopted it, it is politically neutral. i thank NN. S.Pushpavanam

REPLY

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Sivasubramanian Pushpavanam 2 years ago

You may like to know that the FIRST problem with Aadhar is that THERE IS NO LEGISLATION.
In fact, we have been saying that it must be discussed and legislated through parliament.
Instead it is being made compulsory through the back door and tens of thousand crores of public funds are assigned to UIDAI.

As a financial journalist, I make it my business to find out facts.

Francis D'Silva

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 10 months ago

Given that Aadhar is "out there". What do you suggest should be done to fix the legistlation?

S.Pushpavanam

2 years ago

Sucheta dalal is a respected financial journalist. She needs to know more about how legislations work. Misuse of a law can be no excuse for abolition of a law. There is a law against pick pockets. don't we have pick pockets still?
Aadhar has been enormously successful in weeding out bogus LPG owners.About 50 crores of Indians have no identity card at all except perhaps EPIC. Now they have one. What happens to unreserved passengers in a train accident? Their kin do not receive any compensation because they are not identifiable.Privacy is an elitist concern.Since both the Govts. adopted it, it is politically neutral. i thank NN. S.Pushpavanam

MDT

2 years ago

Thanks All for your comments.
Those interested in knowing details of Aadhaar are requested to read our coverage of the entire project before commenting on a single issue. This coverage contains everything about Aadhaar, biometrics, payment systems, ID systems, UIDAI, its known/unknown partners, tests, false positive rates, the world experience in biometrics-based ID system etc. Here is the link http://www.moneylife.in/life/uid/aadhaar

Thanks again,
MDT

Ashoka.kalgude

2 years ago

Here in Singapore people enjoy life with ease and simplified just by their NRIC, wherever movie hall, entry to museum (free concession), or at random police checks, checking into hotel,hospital buying insurace, car phone cable connection to buying home applying job filing application availing medical benefits, insurance calims, reting home,travelling, ticketing, school admission even getting offers from shopping Malls all done with just flashing NRIC. senior citizens use the card so that they get extra 'green man' time while crossing the road. just makes life simple no filing of papers, photos just sign digitally in some cases. I SUGGEST all the doubting Thomases just visit Singapore and see this time tested system. Singapore is not far off or just ask your neighborhood man who had been to Singapore.

REPLY

Ganesh

In Reply to Ashoka.kalgude 2 years ago

Much respected forum like money life should declare first what they exactly want? ADHAR where doubts raised here are taken care of or altogether dumping of it? At least two respondents here have refered to Singaporean number system. There is nothing from Moneylife about that number system with ref to debate of Indian and US experiences.

Ashoka.kalgude

In Reply to Ganesh 2 years ago

Ganesh is rightly pointed it out, What money life want? why scare mongering? Why can't look for solutions answers in platform? Doubting Thomases should give best alternative or not JUST shoot and scoot.

Rajesh

2 years ago

Identity theft and misuse of biometrics data are the biggest threats.
If their is no legislation to deal with the situation the data collected by the agents is already sold by them to the companies.
Biometrics data leading to misuse can have disastrous effect on health systems. Their is no control over sale of personal information in India we see companies collecting personal information and are selling it for business purpose. Their is breach of privacy. In the information age privacy of citizens is at risk.

jobjneroth

2 years ago

What is disappointing about MoneyLife's stand on the AADHAR (through its various articles on the issue) seems to be that there is only critisism of the program, without giving out any better alternative for it. Better to critise AND give a better alternative if you have one. Facts are that India is wasting a lot of money, and will continue to do so if this is not done. Yes, there will be some amount of identity theft and privicy issues, but when this is compared with the benefits of the program, there is no denying that we need such a unique number - which will help in reducing theft and pilferage of govt funds.
And, if UIDAI authorities do not wish to be on the media spotlight on this issue, Moneylife should also point out the positive aspects of the program as well in its articles, as per the experts you are talking about.... or do these experts think there is not a single positive reasoning behind Aadhaar??

REPLY

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to jobjneroth 2 years ago

If alternatives were so easy to pull out of a hat, wouldnt' the US have FOUND a better alternative to the SSN instead of worrying about it?
What a facile objection. When Indians have 5 to 6 identification cards already, why spend precious resources on another - which is EVEN MORE FLAWED..
Aadhar has been issued in the name of Birayani whose father's name is coriander . In the name of a table and chair -- and I am not even talking about Bangladeshis, Nepalese etc who are not Indian citizens. Even US citizens of Indian origin have got themselves an aadhar on their trips to India.
What is the purpose of this waste of money????

Chandragupta Acharya

2 years ago

Aadhaar is the very antithesis of "Minimum Government" which Modi promised. There is an urgent need to phase out welfarism and subsidies. Instead we are wasting thousands of crores on just changing the mode of delivery. Nandan Nilekani or the UPA, NDA government have never addressed the concerns raised by Aadhaar opponents.Even if Aadhaar can be used effectively for some purposes, do the ends justify the means?

Meenal Mamdani

2 years ago

I agree that SSN theft has led to problems for the citizen but if you look at the number of problems in relationship to the number of transactions that are conducted, then one can see that this is a minor problem.
I do't think that any one any where has come up with a perfect system.One starts with a reasonably good system and then improves on it as problems are encountered.
Those who are against Aadhar should also offer an equally good alternative.
I am disappointed with MoneyLife for joining this group of naysayers. It would be more helpful for MoneyLife to invite a knowledgeable person from the Aadhar team to address a conference where the opposite side too can present its views. A transcript of this conference on ML website will allow all readers to understand the issues.

REPLY

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Meenal Mamdani 2 years ago

Ms Mamdani

Everybody who has written on Aadhar for Moneylife is highly technically qualified and a person of great repute.
Please check the background of Dr Anupam Saraph and other such as Col Mathew Thomas ( a rocket scientist and army veteran) .
Most of us know Mr Nandan Nilekani and ALL of us have made attempts to get the UIDAI people to talk, or to respond to queries - it has not happened!
Please do make the effort to read and understand all the 200+ articles and video demonstrations that are on Moneylife Foundation's website.

Someone has talked in these comments about second and 3rd generation aadhar cards -- where will the colossal expenditure on all of this come from?
How many are aware that biometrics and finger prints change every 3 to 4 years? Did you know that?

I could go on and on -- but it has all been addressed over 100s of articles right here. Do keep a day aside to read them. The issues raised are serious for people living in India who are being coerced to get an Aadhar card through the backdoor.
best

Ashoka.kalgude

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 2 years ago

Concern raised are very very minute fraction of benefits what Aadhaar promises.It can be addressed and strengthened. But asking for Abandoning Aadhaar is like throwing Baby with Bath water. Any Protest Campaigning should be on positive and focus getting best out of system not altogether brushing it aside.In India real Governance started from 2014, Governance without ID and data is "doing Homam in the water". A universal ID like Aadhaar possibility of usefulness is Vastly unimaginable only time will tell. Moneylife so for done lot to bring out perceived ills of Aadhaar. Now time to get bettering it and get going.

Mr Jitendra

2 years ago

SSN never ever gets scanned or photocopied in US. Never. Thus SSN sanctity remains protected.

On the other hand, Aadhaar is rampantly getting scanned and photocopied everywhere thus making it available and visible to everyone.

Laws to protect identity in US are far better than India.
Moreover, ability to deliver justice if ever an injustice is faced by a citizen or resident is far far superior in US than India.

Initial 57 crore Aadhaar numbers do not display the entire date of birth. Only year of birth is displayed. Thus making that Aadhaar a partial identity document; 57 crore residents must produce some other date of birth proof.
Aadhaar does not have constitutional standing.

Aadhaar was not required at all. Never ever, it is not going to solve problems or will solve only very small problem.

Quality of Aadhaar is not so great. Font is very small to read name and address. Instead, they should have followed the credit card size identity card approach with Name and Photo, DOB, Blood Group etc clearly displayed.

Shashikant Chaudhari

2 years ago

What US ssn card lacks is biomtric details hence it is difficult to trace identity theft.Aadhaar has it hence less chance of identity theft.Only way will be forming a family group seeding all aadhaar to each other so that identity theft will be less. US is happy with 30 crore population,,we are not happy even our population is 123 crores.Hence what is allowed or not allowed in US,UK does not hold good for IndiaSSN does not have biometrics,but Natinal penetration of credit card is 95% which has compulsary biometric registration and can get only after SSN number.In UK 80% nationals have passport which needs biometrics,which is not condition of India.First Aadhaar and followed by NPR is only solution ....If Indians want it.

J Pinto

2 years ago

The British people are wise enough to realise the risk of their personal freedoms being compromised or jeopardised at the hands of a vindictive state. The British have refused to accept a National ID leave alone a biometric ID.

Today India has a government which is unashamedly anti minority with its condemnable Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra agenda.

At the flick of a central switch the identity of every member of the minority can be readily compromised so as to deny them any and possibly every right and service that they would otherwise be entitled to.

REPLY

Marks

In Reply to J Pinto 2 years ago

"Today India has a government which is unashamedly anti minority with its condemnable Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra agenda."

You must be reading too much of Indian Media news these days. Don't worry India is safer and has more stable govt. that is not directly controlled by Vatican City and Pope & Co.

Ganesh

In Reply to J Pinto 2 years ago

ADHAR project is brainchild of Congress Led Alliance Govt. Why moneylife don't invite Nandan Nilkeni to put up his side? It was originally his idea for India.

J Pinto

In Reply to J Pinto 2 years ago

If not the minorities then anyone who opposes a fascist government runs the very same risk of being electronically "disabled" and unable to access any service.

Anand Vaidya

2 years ago

1) The faults of Aadhaar lies in the poor implementation, the idea is a sound one.

Your article bemoans the downside but suggest no sane, safe alternative (there is none) for a more digitally interconnected world.

2) Without Aadhar, gov agencies, banks, insurers etc collect all sorts of personal data, including biometrics. Even before Aadhaar, MEA (passports) started collecting biometrics. Aadhaar will eliminate

3) Are you saying signatures of persons (cheques, property docs), which are easily forged - or - credit cards with CVV numbers on the reverse are far more secure than a digital ID?

Is repetitive data collection by every agency for its own silo database better than one central agency?

It would be very hard to ensure consistency or secure multiple databases. One ID is definitely the way to go.

The govt needs to look into the shortcomings of aadhaar including server side data security and fix those. Not scrap aadhaar project

4) I would like your opinion on the single identity as implented by Singapore gov. (I have lived there and can comment on it).

REPLY

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Anand Vaidya 2 years ago

Mr Vaidya... the reason for comparing it with SSN is to highlight the fact that even developed nations, far ahead of us in automation, which a 100% literate population and more money, are struggling for a solution.

So rhetorical questions like, what is your alternative are fine -- but in the absence of a viable or workable alternative, should we be encouraging our government to blow up precious resources?
And dont you find it VERY strange that this issue is not debated in parliament. There is still no clear redress for compromised aadhar and for several other issues raised by people who understand technology like Dr Anupam Saraph?
How come none are ever consulted? How come questions asked by people like Dr Prakash Hebalkar have also never been answered even in the initial stage?

I think we must bemoan the fact that people are unwilling to question and resist -- far easier to attack the few who do!

svgopal

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 2 years ago

An effort has been made by Govt thru AADHAR to address various subsidies and public distribution system which has been siphoned off in the past by unscrupulous agencies. Savings enviaged through Aadhar will outweigh the costs associated with it.
Banks are using Inetrnet banking and computerised their operations which are running successfully, so will AADHAR. There are very less complaints today on the technology related issues relating to safety & operations. Tracking the transaction has also been made possible. I am confidant that the same will be implemented by AADHAR also. Govt has facilitated the opening of Bank accounts which is a step closer to this direction.
Enlightened citizens should make a constructive criticism for any new inventions / innovations. During early 80s, there was lot of resistance for the introduction of computers also.
Let us give some healthy suggestions on how to strengthen the AADHAR and curb misuse of Subsidies.

Ganesh

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 2 years ago

Yes there should be discussion and consultation and government should be answerable to queries of people but then have we scraped mobile phones, computers, credit cards and online banking because there were frauds? We have to find a way ahead.

Anand Vaidya

2 years ago

1) The faults of Aadhaar lies in the poor implementation, the idea is a sound one.

Your article bemoans the downside but suggest no sane, safe alternative (there is none) for a more digitally interconnected world.

2) Without Aadhar, gov agencies, banks, insurers etc collect all sorts of personal data, including biometrics. Even before Aadhaar, MEA (passports) started collecting biometrics. Aadhaar will eliminate

3) Are you saying signatures of persons (cheques, property docs), which are easily forged - or - credit cards with CVV numbers on the reverse are far more secure than a digital ID?

Is repetitive data collection by every agency for its own silo database better than one central agency?

It would be very hard to ensure consistency or secure multiple databases. One ID is definitely the way to go.

The govt needs to look into the shortcomings of aadhaar including server side data security and fix those. Not scrap aadhaar project

4) I would like your opinion on the single identity as implented by Singapore gov. (I have lived there and can comment on it).

REPLY

Shashikant Chaudhari

In Reply to Anand Vaidya 2 years ago

Anadji ,,first time i have seen a good comment.
At this stage we do not know exact population,,do nt know how many marriages occured,How many have fake passports,How many are illegal immigrants,,even income from all sourcesand expenditure,,number of students in schools,,no complete birh data and records ,,,,To initiate control on these matters Aadhaar is needed,,If it has any shortcomings they may be dealt with 2nd ,3rd generation aadhaar cards.First thing is aadhaar project is to be completed and next is the permission of Hon supreme court to seed it to all programs..otherwise there will never be data and Govt has to rely on bogus figures.Even today voting right is exercised through one of twenty documentsor even without no identification if all polling agents agree orally.this procedure leads to corruption.So Let Aadhaar complete and be implemented.

Akshay Kini

2 years ago

This is due to lack of technical awareness and a callous attitude of the Indian public who believe that bad things won't happen to "them".

Example conversations with real people on Aadhar ID theft:

What will someone do with my Identity, I don't have money in bank. Ha Ha Ha!
Ans: They will take loan on your name, and 10 years later when you apply for loan you will not be granted one as you are considered a defaulter. Good luck correcting this.

It will not happen to me. -> No argument.

"Benefits outweigh the problems." I can apply that to other parts of the law. Let's hang every accused as that will ensure 100% criminal elimination, a few innocents will be killed, but the benefits will outweigh....

REPLY

R Nandy

In Reply to Akshay Kini 2 years ago

Since PAN card,Driving License and Telephone Bill can be used to perform an identity theft they should be banned. What say?

Mumbai-born British 'Curry King' Noon dead
Mumbai-born British businessman Lord Ghulam Kaderbhoy Noon, who earneed the moniker 'Curry King' for popularising Indian chicken tikka and curry in Britain and survived the 26/11 terror attacks in Taj Mahal and Palace Hotel in Mumbai, has died in London.
 
Born in Mumbai on January 24, 1936, the 79-year-old Noon breathed his last -- in a country he adopted in 1964 -- on Tuesday after a prolonged battle with cancer.
 
While on a visit to India and his birthplace in Mumbai, Noon was among the thousands of guests trapped inside the iconic Taj Mahal and Palace Hotel during the November 26-29, 2008, Mumbai terror attacks, and was later rescued by security forces who stormed and neutralised the Pakistani terrorists.
 
Shiv Sena's youth leader Aaditya Thackeray expressed grief over the demise of Lord Noon, a prominent member of the Dawoodi Bohra community who started with a sweetmeat shop in Mumbai nearly six decades ago.
 
"One of the most prominent Indians in Britain, and beyond that all, a very close friend of our family... Noon uncle was the epitome of the 'never give up' spirit of entrepreneurship and humanity," said Aaditya Thackeray.
 
Migrating to Britain in his teens, Noon founded and ran a number of food product companies in Southall, specialising in Indian cuisine.
 
His main business 'Noon Products' was established in 1987, manufacturing chilled and frozen ready-to-eat Indian and Thai meals, mostly for British supermarkets.
 
In 1994, the factory was reduced to ashes in a blaze, but he got it working within 10 weeks and in 2005 it was acquired by Irish food giant Kerry Group.
 
In 1996, he was made Member of Order of British Empire (MBE), Knight Bachelor in 2002, as Baron Noon in 2011, and finally entered the British House of Lords in January 2011 as a Labour Party leader.
 
Later, Noon became the chancellor of University of East London, a Fellow of Birkbeck and a trustee of Maimonides Foundation, which promotes dialogue between the Jews and Muslims.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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