Aadhaar turns Nir-aadhaar

Finally, real truth about lack of data privacy is exposed

On 24th March, in one fell swoop, the Supreme Court of India (SC) defanged the Congress-led government’s most expensive and most controversial Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) programme. The government was asked to withdraw all orders making the Aadhaar number mandatory and told that UIDAI cannot share Aadhaar details with any agency without a person’s concurrence.

Strangely, the deathblow came from UIDAI’s own petition. UIDAI had appealed against a lower court’s order asking it to share biometric data with the police for a criminal investigation. UIDAI did not want to share data or allow its competence or capability to be tested, as ordered by the high court. It was then that it admitted that its technology was not foolproof as touted and the 0.057% error rate could lead to lakhs of false identification possibilities in criminal cases, if applied to 57 crore Indians whose biometrics (fingerprints and iris scan) are captured by UIDAI.

The UIDAI has always maintained that Aadhaar was not mandatory and that the data could not be shared without a person’s consent. However, in the absence of a clear statute and non-transparent functioning, privacy activists had filed petitions raising several key concerns about UIDAI’s backdoor strategy of making Aadhaar mandatory for payment of salaries to government employees, LPG subsidies, birth and death registrations, admissions to schools and colleges, etc. Nandan Nilekani, a founder of Infosys and the high-profile technocrat behind this programme, personally lobbied with Reserve Bank of India (RBI), individual banks and the capital market regulator to try and make it mandatory even for those with multiple identities.

Ironically, the massive spending on Aadhaar was sanctioned on the grounds that it would provide identity to millions of poor and disenfranchised Indians and allow them to get the benefits of government schemes and subsidies. In making these claims, Aadhaar hid many crucial facts.

These were: biometrics are not fool proof; finger prints change, have to be revalidated every few years and can be cloned easily; and the sub-contracted data collection process was flawed. People have multiple Aadhaar numbers and Aadhaar numbers have been issued to chairs and tables and, as a sting operation confirmed, Aadhaar was easily issued to foreigners for a price and a letter from a politician.

On 26th March, CJ Karira, an activist, won an appeal against the UIDAI’s reluctance to respond to Right to Information (RTI) queries and obtained answers to some crucial questions. First, that oil companies are not using Aadhaar to ‘authenticate’ the identity, but only to ‘match’ the number for themselves. There is no way to delete biometric data if a person wants to ‘opt’ out of Aadhaar—there is no exit. The most stunning revelation was that UIDAI does not maintain any record of who the Aadhaar data is shared with or when.

All this only exposes the dubious role played by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on a project that admits to have spent Rs4,000 crore already to enrol 57 crore Indians and has been sanctioned a huge budget for further spending without a parliamentary nod.
 

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    COMMENTS

    Narayanaswami Natarajan

    7 years ago

    My rejoinder to Mr. Sandeep.
    Nilakeni's intentions were probably noble. Poor fellow got into a wrong company with vested interests and lent his name to the games it played. It is non- achievement because the method adopted was opaque and illegal and the product is suspect. The huge expenditure had no parliamentary sanction. Coercion was used to force it down the throats of innocent participants. It had no parliamentary nod. A smart guy like NN must certainly have understood this issue early in the game. If he still cooperated and colluded one is forced to infer that ambition came before national interest. His candidate as a member of congress party proves the point. He had at least one more honorable option to become an MP. Money Life is only a messenger. No point in shooting it. Let Nilakeni clarify on all the points.

    REPLY

    Sandeep

    In Reply to Narayanaswami Natarajan 7 years ago

    Hi Narayanan

    spending 3800 crore on Aadhaar/NPR no. is nothing as compared to benefit it'll give to coming generations.

    Aadhaar has helped to cut down leakage of 1 billion USD just in LPG subsidies only in last year, so Aadhaar has already paid off it's cost. Now it's just a cash cow only for Indian exchequer, any sensible next finance minister would love(provided it's majority goverment) to make it mandatory as soon as entire India is covered by end of 2015 to cut down subsidy bill/fiscal deficit/stop leakage/eliminate ghost beneficiary.

    India spends around 300000 crore every year in subsidies along and we all know 10-40% is diversion, leakage, never reaches the end beneficiary. Aadhaar/NPR no. has the potential to save that 40 % or direct to right beneficiary so government will be saving. Even if it saves 10%, still it's 5 billion USD every year!!!

    I am no one to comment about why NN choose this party or that to be MP, but I also, like you; thought about it why he would do that, then just had a thought may be he would be then only one(if elected) in parliament who can explain in Loksabha what's aadhaar/NPR no. as a concept and defend this as an idea to help coming generations otherwise you also know what kind of MPs we send to loksabha.

    Aaadhaar was started in 2009 with an Executive order(legal by costitution)and UIDAI bill 2010 was sent to standing committee headed by Yashwant Sinha, didn't let it go to next step and same guy recently telling at TV that NPR is good but Aadhaar is bad, just because NPR was concept of BJP in Vajpayee goverment and Aadhaar is Congress game changer. if you call Aadhaar illegal then take it as NPR no. which is legal as per Indian constitution




    MDT

    In Reply to Sandeep 7 years ago

    Sandeep,
    Thanks for your comments.
    Philanthropy without productivity, welfare without wealth and charity without capital will guarantee the bankruptcy of any nation.
    http://www.moneylife.in/article/food-sec...

    Talking about the ordinance, this is a clear constitutional impropriety. The power to promulgate ordinances is vested with the President and Governors under Articles 123 and 213 of the Constitution and is based on similar powers that the Governor-General of India and the Governors of provinces had before independence. In a heated debate on 23 May 1949, several members of the Constituent Assembly expressed fears of a misuse of this power. Dr BR Abukir informed the members that this extraordinary power was necessary because the “framework for passing law in the ordinary process does not exist”. In the end, the members accepted that this extraordinary power was a necessary evil to be used in extraordinary situations and not perverted to serve political ends. As has happened several times in the past, our politicians have done exactly what the founding fathers did not expect them to do.

    In the case of ordinance, it requires to be passed as an Act by the Parliament within six months of its promulgation to be deemed legal.

    Coming back to your 'achievement' of LPG subsidy transfere.... Several people who have linked their Aadhaar with LPG distribution are either not receiving subsidy on time or not receiving the SMS. On the other hand, some people are receiving multiple SMS with different customer IDs about LPG refill and subsidy not related with them.
    http://www.moneylife.in/article/aadhaar-...

    Ram Das

    7 years ago

    Anti-Aadhaar ranting is at least entertaining. Even when UIDAI is vindicated by the supreme court, new spin of moneylife shows how UIDAI was defanged.
    Facts
    1. All UIDAI documents including proposed parliament bill insisted on treating resident's biometric as private and could not be shared without resident's consent.
    2. UIDAI appealed to court to insist on this resident's privacy.
    3. No documents of UIDAI has ever said that Aadhaar is compulsory. It always has said that Aadhaar is optional.

    State agencies and other central government agencies administrating benefit programs insisted on Aadhaar. This is wrong and I am glad the supreme court upheld it.

    REPLY

    MDT

    In Reply to Ram Das 7 years ago

    Dear Ram Das,
    Thanks for your comment.
    n a strange case of conflict of interests, Nandan Nilekani, the IT czar, is either heading or part of a committee or group that is turning the 'voluntary' UID number or Aadhaar of residents as mandatory for citizens to access several services and benefits from the government!
    http://www.moneylife.in/article/nandan-n...

    MG Warrier

    7 years ago

    This is in response to Sandeep’s comment that “…seems like moneylife team has no topic left to cover other than criticizing Aadhaar all the time…”. The further observations Sandeep has made on April 5 justifies the criticism AADHAAR is encountering in the media. After all, media gives voice to the common man’s concerns.

    REPLY

    Sandeep

    In Reply to MG Warrier 7 years ago

    Sir, no where I mentioned that Aadhaar criticism is justified, rather you should appreciate that UPA has only done this one good thing in last 10 year of ghotala tenure!!

    MG Warrier

    In Reply to Sandeep 7 years ago

    I said "The further observations Sandeep has made on April 5 justifies the criticism AADHAAR is encountering in the media. After all, media gives voice to the common man’s concerns." There are enough ifs and buts and uncertainties about AADHAAR in your observations recorded here. They justify the criticism AADHAAR is attracting!

    Narayanaswami Natarajan

    7 years ago

    It is now Nandan nilakeni without his Aadhaar!On the back of this non-achievement he has also joined the corrupt congress bandwagon to seek an MP's job from Bangalore. I hope the enlightened electorate of his constituency will see through the game of this wannabe PM!
    N. Natarajan

    REPLY

    Sandeep

    In Reply to Narayanaswami Natarajan 7 years ago

    he spearheaded this project and gave ID to 60 crore residents of India and UID will be completing another 33 crore by early next year and in your terms still it is non- achievement???

    Sandeep

    7 years ago

    seems like moneylife team has no topic left to cover other than criticizing Aadhaar all the time. they might forget food but even in dreams they think about how we can manipulate any news to defame aadhaar but fact of the matter is Aadhaar aka NPR no. is there to stay forever and only ID that is covering more than 85 crore(61 UID +24 by NPR) people residing in India.

    There is no other single ID that can match it and has no duplicates with online authentication.

    So Moneylife team rather than criticizing UID as a concept, start thinking how you can make it better.. that's called constructive journalism...contributing to society

    REPLY

    MDT

    In Reply to Sandeep 7 years ago

    Sandeep,
    Thanks for your comment.
    You need to read more in Moneylife to get to know the truth.
    Here is the list of article that are most read at present by readers and Aadhaar related article is the last one on it!


    1. The Real Story of how HSBC Was Made To Pay
    2. Football and cricket most susceptible to money laundering
    3. IDFC, Bandhan Financial get RBI nod for banking licence
    4. Safe & Higher Returns: Look beyond Bank FDs
    5. Aadhaar turns Nir-aadhaar

    Talking about constructive journalism... Moneylife has been sending several question to Mr Nilekani and other top executives of UIDAI. But they dont believe in constructive, free flow of information. But may be you can aks them to be more open and share their opaqueness while providing answers. This experience, unfortunately is not limitd with only Moneylife. Several activist, who used the RTI route, were also denied information from the "open, constructive" UIDAI on its Aadhaar. Read http://www.moneylife.in/article/aadhaar-... and http://www.moneylife.in/article/uidais-c...

    Sandeep

    In Reply to MDT 7 years ago

    I remember one saying of my ex boss, very experience fellow, don't just complain about anything wrong or not being done in a right manner unless you have found/can suggest a better way otherwise you're just magnifying the issue at hand.

    same goes here at moneylife about Aadhaar, in last 2-3 year since I have started following UID/NPR as a concept, have never seen a positive thing about Aadhaar by ML or a better alternative solution to address the ghost/duplicate/cut down middlemen beneficiary in the government system.

    just criticizing without giving feedback specifying areas of improvement doesn't make much of a sense.

    by the way I did send a feedback about modifying the LPG subsidy the same way as PDS solution by UIDAI(to be rolled out) where consumer will have option to go to any Fair price shop to get ration and Depot holder will have to compete by providing better service and on time.

    for some of activists, UID has all the process docs at website

    http://uidai.gov.in/library/references.h...

    these process docs are worth reviewing and come out with better solution for aam aadmi

    MG Warrier

    In Reply to Sandeep 7 years ago

    This response from me is not on behalf of MDT. Since the initial days of UID or 'Nilekani' experiment I too have been following the identity story. I had felt that the project was on the wrong track. Several comments were recorded and many letters to the editor were published calling for a review. As regards AAdhaar-linked benefit transfer, an article was also posted at moneylife.in If you are not able to find the right path, that does not mean that knowingly you should proceed on th wrong path which may be taking you in the opposite direction 'at your cost'

    Udit C

    7 years ago

    What do the big guns care? They have made name, fame and given BIG contracts!

    MM & Co can scuttle their mothers and fathers if they find their purpose spent.

    MG Warrier

    7 years ago

    Copied below is my response to a newspaper report on AADHAAR:

    December 23, 2011

    Review Aadhaar

    “Aadhaar or Niraadhaar? That’s the question!”(Business Line, December 23) sums up the present predicament of UID project and the not so envious situation in which Mr. Nanden Nilekani is placed. Nilekani doesn’t lose much, because he gains experience in the learning process which will take him to greater heights. Government has no prestige issue on such matters, because this sort of meddling, cost and time overruns and huge losses are part of any game government plays, at least in the recent past in India. 70 per cent of the 120 crore people for whose benefit the project was allegedly conceived, are also not bothered about the present and future of this wonderful exercise as they are literally unaware of the goings on, because they are out of reach for the media. Then, why B S Raghavan is getting over-worked about the success or failure of this Aadhaar? He represents the voice of the taxpayer whose hard-earned money is being wasted and at whose doors finally the buck will stop.
    UID, for various reasons including inadequate funding, non-availability of in-house expertise and resultant dependence on external agencies including banks and government departments is bound to take much more time than originally envisaged, even to cover the already ‘identified’ citizens. If government is convinced about the utility of UID, the project should be allowed to merge with the Census of India and access the infrastructure and methodology in use by that organization for decades and fast-track the process.
    M G Warrier, Thiruvananthapuram

    REPLY

    Sandeep

    In Reply to MG Warrier 7 years ago

    answer to your merging of UID and Census of India i.e. NPR card. .....at back end UID and NPR both share same no.generation mechanism.

    To avoid duplication and double work, UID was allowed to enroll 60 Crore and NPR was allowed to enroll 65 crore. UID has completed the target of 60 crore and NPR has enrolled only 24 crore so far so UID was allowed to another 33 crore in UP, Bihar, chattisgarh and uttrakhand by early next year. so by end of 2015 almost everyone residing in India (doesn't matter nationality)will have Aadhaar no. generated and NPR will keep issuing Smart ID if you're a citizen of India.

    Bottom line if you're resident in India, you have Aadhaar only and if you are citizen of india then you'll have smart ID with aadhaar no. on it.


    MG Warrier

    In Reply to Sandeep 7 years ago

    Sandeep
    Please clarify whether UID(Adhaar) and NPR are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. In which case, those who have AADHAAR will not have NPR number and vice versa.

    Sandeep

    In Reply to MG Warrier 7 years ago

    NPR and Aadhaar are mutually exclusive only in a sense that NPR has information about your declared nationality(of course you have to have supporting document to justify your claim)along with some more parameter for statistical purpose. Thats why all border area where there is possible influx of people from bordering countries like bangladesh(west bengal), Srilanka(tamil nadu), pak (J&K) being covered under NPR to keep check on outsiders.

    just a correction what I said above, people having aadhaar card may get the Smart ID as well but that will have Nationality information stored on a chip. But still aadhaar is not a proof of your declared nationality but NPR is.



    follow FAQ about NPR
    http://www.censusindia.gov.in/2011-Commo...

    aadhaar is just a no. being given on a simple card. you can print it online anytime but it'll speedify the complete enrollment process because NPR may take another 5-10 year to provide smart card at the speed it's going.

    Only purpose Aadhaar is serving is to certify the uniqueness of individual by matching your biometrics, iris and photo alongwith your demographics. It's eliminating ghost, duplicates and middleperson from the government system and that's people who has been abusing the system has been trying hard to anyhow derail this aadhaar card enrollment.

    For common man in India doesn't matter whether they get the 12 digit UID no. from Aadhaar or NPR...

    Abhijit Gosavi

    7 years ago

    These machine vision algorithms use a finite (a small) number of points (which form the so-called "profile" within the computer's database) to represent data from millions of points (actually infinitely many points) on our fingers. Naturally, they are very imperfect. Further, as pointed out, fingerprints change with time. Mr. Nilekani, an electrical engineer and a programmer, must know these serious flaws exist in these algorithms. But like everything else, this scam also can be traced to money; in this case, about Rs. 4,000 crores!

    REPLY

    Ram Das

    In Reply to Abhijit Gosavi 7 years ago

    Mr. Gosavi is kindly requested to read accuracy report of UIDAI (http://uidai.gov.in/images/FrontPageUpda.... Besides use of all ten fingers, use of iris (multi-modal) biometrics provides required accuracy. You can understand math behind multi-modal by reading numerous papers published by NIST, Prof. Anil Jain or other well renowned biometrics scientists.

    Please do understand full science and engineering behind biometrics before accepting hearsay claims.

    Other countries such as Indonesia have already shown the accuracy they can get using nearly identical scheme.

    KARTAR SAINANI

    7 years ago

    Rs770 crores was not enough for NN that he had to start such a dubious & traitorous scheme whch gave away the details of our citizens to CIA connected companies.His Rs770 crores should be confiscated to make up the loss of Rs4000 crores loss to the exchequer.

    Bhaskar Raut

    7 years ago

    'Aadhar' has no value, and the crores of rupees spent on providing 'aadhar'is a waste. It only helped the private agencies to siphon money from the government excenquer.

    REPLY

    ganapathy mani

    In Reply to Bhaskar Raut 7 years ago

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