Natural tendency of government to desire perfect records of private lives, says Snowden
“It is the natural tendency of government to desire perfect records of private lives. History shows that no matter the laws, the result is abuse,” Edward Snowden tweeted. Snowden is known for his ethical position against mass surveillance saying, “I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things ... I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.” This follows the Tribune story on the Aadhaar breach.
Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) has welcomed the statement of Edward Snowden on the police case against the journalist who revealed the colossal breach in Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of 12-digit biometric Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar Numbers of Indian residents who have lived in India for at least 182 days, said Gopal Krishna of CFCL in a public statement.
On the police case against the reporter for reporting about breach in UID/Aadhaar database, Snowden said, “The journalists exposing the #Aadhaar breach deserve an award, not an investigation. If the government were truly concerned for justice, they would be reforming the policies that destroyed the privacy of a billion Indians. Want to arrest those responsible? They are called @UIDAI”, in his tweet.
Notably, Snowden also retweeted the statement of Harish Khare, The Tribune Editor-in-Chief on FIR (First Information Report) filed against disclosure of breach in Aadhaar Database by The Tribune reporter.
It may be recalled that Snowden went on a medical leave from NSA (National Security Agency) and on 20 May 2013, he took a flight to Hong Kong, China, where he spoke to Glenn Greenwald, a journalist and Laura Poitras, a filmmaker. Following which secret documents obtained from Snowden were published on 5 June 2013. These documents showed that USA’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court implemented an order that required Verizon to release information to the NSA on an "ongoing, daily basis" extracted from customers' phone activities. Later, The Guardian and The Washington Post published information on PRISM, an NSA program that allows real-time information collection electronically leaked by Snowden.
CFCL says that it is noteworthy that the government has admitted before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that examined the issue of UID/Aadhaar numbers that it might involve certain issues, such as (a) security and confidentiality of information, imposition of obligation of disclosure of information so collected in certain cases, (b) impersonation by certain individuals at the time of enrolment for issue of unique identification numbers, (c) unauthorised access to the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR), (d) manipulation of biometric information.
The Parliamentary Committee observed, “There is no law at present on privacy, and data protection”. The government told the committee that “collection of information without a privacy law in place does not violate the right to privacy of the individual.” The committee recommended that legislation on UID/Aadhaar would be appropriate “only after passing the legislation on privacy, and data protection so as to ensure that there is no conflict between these laws.”
Gopal Krishna concluded his public statement by quoting Snowden: "This really isn’t about me. It’s about us. It’s about our right to dissent. It’s about the kind of country we want to have." In an interview on 5 January 2018, he said, “Privacy’s not about having something to hide, privacy’s about something to protect. Privacy is the fountainhead of all other rights. Privacy is where rights are derived from, because privacy is the right to the self. Privacy is the right to a free mind. Privacy is the ability to have something, anything, for yourself, for you.”
It may be recalled that Rachna Khaira of The Tribune wrote, “It took just Rs500, paid through Paytm, and 10 minutes in which an “agent” of the group running the racket created a “gateway” for this correspondent and gave a login ID and password. Lo and behold, you could enter any Aadhaar number in the portal, and instantly get all particulars that an individual may have submitted to the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India), including name, address, postal code (PIN), photo, phone number and email. What is more, The Tribune team paid another Rs300, for which the agent provided “software” that could facilitate the printing of the Aadhaar card after entering the Aadhaar number of any individual.”