Biometric profiling, including DNA, is dehumanising -Part 3

Citizens would face an unprecedented onslaught from the provisions of DNA Profiling Bill and other related surveillance measures being bulldozed by unregulated and ungovernable technology. Biometric profiling of any sort is dehumanising

The dangers of trusting identification technologies for determining social policies is bound to be consequential in a situation where “[A] warrant requirement will not make much difference to a society that, under the sway of a naive and discredited theory of genetic determinism, is willing to lock people away on the basis of their genes.”

 

The 21st century ideology of genetic determinism is being promoted through biometric identification. Such identification includes DNA profiling. DNA profiling is ‘undesirable particularly as forensic DNA developments are intertwined with significant changes in legislation and contentious issues of privacy, civil liberty and social justice.’ The argument which is often mouthed in defence of biometric National Population Register (NPR) and unique identification (UID)/Aadhaar number is that it is meant for social security akin to social security number in the US, which incidentally is not based on biometric data. This must be seen along with a similar argument being advanced for a DNA profile. They say such profiling is required because it “is very much like a social security number—though it is longer and is assigned by chance, not by the federal government”. Clearly, the ramifications of automatic profiling, tracking and surveillance is unfolding and trapping unsuspecting citizens in its ambit.

   

The 58-page Draft Human DNA Profiling Bill, 2012 which is the revised version of the 35-page DNA Profiling Act, 2007 appears linked to the emergence of a surveillance and database state using Union Home Ministry’s biometric NPR, National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Union Surface Transport Ministry’s Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Union Finance Ministry’s National Information Utility, Planning Commission’s Unique Identification /Aadhaar, Union Rural Development Ministry’s Land Titling Bill, World Bank’s e-Transform Initiative, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)’s identification policy and Sam Pitroda’s Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations etc.

 

Having initiated collection of biometric data like fingerprints and iris scan for NPR and UID number, the Draft Human DNA Profiling Bill takes the next step and provides for procurement of “intimate body sample” which means a sample of blood, semen or any other tissue, fluid, urine, or pubic hair, a dental impression; or a swab taken from a person’s body orifice other than mouth obtained through “intimate forensic procedure”.

 

A paper ‘Prelude to a Miss: A Cautionary Note against Expanding DNA Databanks in the Face of Scientific Uncertainty’ by Jennifer Sue Deck wherein a text of Office of Technology Assessment, US Congress, ‘Genetic Witness: Forensic Uses of DNA Tests’ reads: “DNA fingerprinting is all but foolproof, but some fool is going to use it”. This is apt about all kinds of biometric identification.

    

Profiling based on Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA) is aimed at examination of human biological material acquired through intimate forensic procedure. This biological material is coded with "the past history and thus dictate the future of an individual's racial and genealogical makeup, and influence an individual's medical and psychological makeup."

 

The intimate forensic procedure means the following forensic procedures, namely:-

(a)An external examination of the genital or anal area, the buttocks and also breasts in the case of a female breast;

(b) Taking of a sample of blood;

(c) Taking of a sample of pubic hair;

(d) Taking of a sample by swab or washing from the external genital or anal area, the buttocks and also breasts in the case of a female;

(e) Taking of a sample by vacuum suction, by scraping or by lifting by tape from the external genital or anal area, the buttocks and also breasts in the case of a female;

(f) Taking of a dental impression;

(g) Taking of a photograph or video recording of, or an impression or cast of a wound from, the genital or anal area, the buttocks and also breasts in  the case of a female.

 

DNA Profiling is aimed at regulating the use of DNA analysis of body substance profiles and making provision for establishment of DNA Profiling Board consisting of eminent scientists, administrators and law enforcement officers to lay down standards for laboratories, collection of body substances, custody trail from collection to reporting and establishment of a databank and to create policies for use and access to information from such data bank, appointment of a DNA Databank Manager to supervise, execute and maintain the databank and for matters connected therewith.

 

A decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) about violation of the right to privacy and family life by DNA profile retention in criminal justice databanks is relevant here. The case was heard publicly on 27 February 2008, and the unanimous decision of 17 judges was delivered on 4 December 2008. The court found that the “blanket and indiscriminate nature” of the power of retention of the fingerprints, cellular samples, and DNA profiles of persons suspected but not convicted of offenses, failed to strike a fair balance between competing public and private interests and ruled that the United Kingdom had “overstepped any acceptable margin of appreciation” in this regard. This was before David Cameron became the Prime Minister in May 2011 defeating Tony Blair's Labour Party which had introduced identity card legislation and compulsory DNA recording.

 

The technique of DNA profiling was pioneered in the UK and it was the first nation to establish a criminal justice DNA databank. The decision is non-appealable. Unmindful of this, in India National DNA databank is being proposed.

 

Once the DNA databank is in place the enlargement of scope for its new predictive uses cannot be ruled out given scientific advancements underway. In such a situation a readymade DNA based inferences adversely impacts impartiality of the criminal justice system and other systems become questionable. Contrary to the existing legal provisions under Census Act and Citizenship Act, the Bill states that the DNA data will also be used for the "creation and maintenance" of population statistics that can be used for "identification, research, protocol development or quality control".

 

The Bill once it becomes a law will grant the authority to collect vast amount of sensitive DNA data of citizens merely on the ground of suspicion in a criminal case. The data will be held till the person is cleared by court. Under the Identification of Prisoner Act, there is a reference of collection of sensitive biometric data like fingerprints wherein biometric data of prisoners can be collected that too with the permission of a Magistrate but on acquittal the biometric data is required to be destroyed. The Draft Human DNA Profiling Bill is far more regressive than the colonial law. The provision of collection of citizens DNA data in the Draft Bill for DNA Database in effect treats the citizens worse than prisoners.

  

The preamble to the Bill admits that "DNA analysis offers sensitive information which, if misused, can cause harm to a person or society". It proposes the creation of a National DNA Data Bank which will be headed by an officer in the rank of a Joint Secretary to the Government of India. There is a section in the Bill that allows for "volunteers" to give their DNA profiles. It is quite strange that "volunteers" are expected to share their sensitive data with the government. It is noteworthy that Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) too had initially claimed that enrolment based on biometric data is voluntary. Subsequent events and official documents reveal that it is explicitly mandatory by implication.

 

The DNA Data Bank like other databases like Centralized Identity Data Register (CIDR) of UID/Aadhaar and NPR are saleable commodities but the Bill provides for the imprisonment of a few months or a fine of Rs50,000 for "misuse" of the DNA profiles. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Union Ministry of Science and Technology have circulated this Bill to other ministries for their inputs.

 

In all likelihood DNA Data Bank, CIDR, NPR and criminal database will get converged in furtherance of World Bank’s e-Transform Initiative unfolding in partnership with six transnational companies namely, Gemalto, IBM, L-1 Identity Solutions, Microsoft and Pfizer and two national governments of France and South Korea. Such convergence poses a threat to minorities and political opponents whose targeting is imminent.

 

It may be noted that US Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA), 2008 prohibits US insurance companies and employers from discriminating on the basis of information derived from genetic tests. The necessity of such law underlines that genetic information like DNA facilitates discrimination.

 

Manifesto of biometric identification promoters will read like the 1,500 page regressive manifesto titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence” brought out by Norwegian gunman and neo-Crusader, Anders Behring Breivik who carried out the heinous attacks on his fellow citizens. It refers to the word “identity” over 100 times, “unique” over 40 times and “identification” over 10 times. There is reference to “state-issued identity cards”, “converts’ identity cards”, “identification card”, “fingerprints”, “DNA” etc as well in this manifesto.

 

These words and their imports merit attention in order to safeguard human rights of present and future generation of citizens which faces an unprecedented onslaught from the provisions of DNA Profiling Bill and other related surveillance measures being bulldozed by unregulated and ungovernable technology. Biometric profiling of any sort is dehumanising.

 

You may also want to read…
 

Why biometric identification of citizens must be resisted? Part I

 

Biometric identification is modern day enslavement -Part II

 

(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)

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COMMENTS

Shashikant Chaudhari

4 years ago

If biometric & genetic data is not to be collected,,,which is better system to prove sexual crimes and stolen identity.There is no remedy.If we decide CCTV footage is must to link Person to link the crime we must have full citizen data.if we want to stop crimes of sex,we must have DNA profile of citizens as well as illegal immigrants and all foreign national present in country at any given time.To link suspects to crime it is eminent.

Ravi S

5 years ago

Subsidized Diesel:

India spends about Rs. One Trillion (Rs. One Lakh Crore) on petroleum subsidy alone. Diesel is highly subsidized. So should the general public pay for diesel cars of rich people? There has been lot of hue & cry on subsidy for kerosene and LPG, then why not on subsidized diesel for the rich?
We should allow diesel subsidy to some vehicles (truck, tractor) only with limits based on Aadhaar number of the owner.

REPLY

Shashikant Chaudhari

In Reply to Ravi S 4 years ago

But' aadhaar' itself is under review by Supreme Court.How atruck owner will be stopped from black marketing subsidized Diesel,,Aadhaar is best way out but some unscrupuous elements are against it & whole nation.

Mumbai One

In Reply to Ravi S 5 years ago

Well...well...well!
Looks like the PR of UIDAI ( or pvt contractor, who may have suffered from such articles) is on a big HIT job today.

And Thanks for revealing your true intentions to 'limit' or 'control' benefits using the UID.
Now, using your logic, kindly guide us, who will decide the 'quota' of diesel for a poor farmer? And how it will be distinguished from the rich farmer?

Anyway...just give answers to two simple questions...
1. Who owns the UID database? Is it the Indian govt or private agencies/firms?
2. Which is the law that regulates the collection of biometric data, and Aadhaar itself? Don't hide behind the lapsed executive order as any such thing become irrelevant after six months.

Ravi S

5 years ago

Who is afraid of Aadhaar & Why?

As the public databases are getting inter-linked one by one thru Aadhaar Number in various States (particularly Delhi, Maharashtra, Andhra), we see the following effects:
1. Middlemen & Officials are finding difficult to continue with corruption in public welfare pensions, scholarships, public health, NREGA, subsidy on PDS Ration, Kerosene, LPG etc.
2. Ineligible, duplicate and fictitious beneficiaries are getting eliminated from public welfare pensions, scholarships, public health, NREGA, subsidy on PDS Ration, Kerosene, LPG etc.
3. Corrupts will find difficult to buy & sell Benami land & building (i.e.under fictitious name).
4. Corrupts will find difficult to open & operate Benami companies for money-laundering.
5. Corrupts will find difficult to open & operate Benami bank accounts for keeping black-money.
6. Tax-evaders will find difficult to evade taxes.
7. Impersonation & proxy will be difficult to commit.
8. Criminals & Terrorists will get detected and tracked thru inter-linked databases of mobile phone, bank account, travel documents etc.
9. Illegal Immigrants will get detected and tracked thru inter-linked databases of mobile phone, bank account, travel documents etc. They will have no place to hide on Indian soil.
10. It will get difficult for Criminals to hide as records are getting accessible to Police from any State of India.
11. It will get difficult to obtain another new Driving License and Arms License from another State once it got impounded.
12. Fraudsters will not be able to steal Provident Fund money.
13. Onion Hoarders will get tracked easily.
14. Dummy candidates will not be able to write competitive exams for others for the sake of money.
15. Ineligible people will not be able to misuse the certificates of income, domicile, education degrees and caste to deprive the eligible people.

REPLY

Shashikant Chaudhari

In Reply to Ravi S 4 years ago

Dear Ravi,Aadhaar is good ,,Why any body should bother who is holding the data,India or some ohers,we still live on foreign aids.some people are always against good projects so they take the case to court to hinder the progress.Personally i dont mind sharing & holding data by Aadhaar or private firms.I am a common man ,living on pension.& by collecting my biometric data,Medical Data,DNA profiling by CIA,,if my country is getting benefit,,why shouldnt I

Mumbai One

In Reply to Ravi S 5 years ago

Well...well...well!
Looks like the PR of UIDAI ( or pvt contractor, who may have suffered from such articles) is on a big HIT job today.

Anyway...just give answers to two simple questions...
1. Who owns the UID database? Is it the Indian govt or private agencies/firms?
2. Which is the law that regulates the collection of biometric data, and Aadhaar itself? Don't hide behind the lapsed executive order as any such thing become irrelevant after six months.

Ravi S

5 years ago

Who is afraid of Aadhaar & Why?

As the public databases are getting inter-linked one by one thru Aadhaar Number in various States (particularly Delhi, Maharashtra, Andhra), we see the following effects:
1. Middlemen & Officials are finding difficult to continue with corruption in public welfare pensions, scholarships, public health, NREGA, subsidy on PDS Ration, Kerosene, LPG etc.
2. Ineligible, duplicate and fictitious beneficiaries are getting eliminated from public welfare pensions, scholarships, public health, NREGA, subsidy on PDS Ration, Kerosene, LPG etc.
3. Corrupts will find difficult to buy & sell Benami land & building (i.e.under fictitious name).
4. Corrupts will find difficult to open & operate Benami companies for money-laundering.
5. Corrupts will find difficult to open & operate Benami bank accounts for keeping black-money.
6. Tax-evaders will find difficult to evade taxes.
7. Impersonation & proxy will be difficult to commit.
8. Criminals & Terrorists will get detected and tracked thru inter-linked databases of mobile phone, bank account, travel documents etc.
9. Illegal Immigrants will get detected and tracked thru inter-linked databases of mobile phone, bank account, travel documents etc. They will have no place to hide on Indian soil.
10. It will get difficult for Criminals to hide as records are getting accessible to Police from any State of India.
11. It will get difficult to obtain another new Driving License and Arms License from another State once it got impounded.
12. Fraudsters will not be able to steal Provident Fund money.
13. Onion Hoarders will get tracked easily.
14. Dummy candidates will not be able to write competitive exams for others for the sake of money.
15. Ineligible people will not be able to misuse the certificates of income, domicile, education degrees and caste to deprive the eligible people.

REPLY

Mumbai One

In Reply to Ravi S 5 years ago

Well...well...well!
Looks like the PR of UIDAI ( or pvt contractor, who may have suffered from such articles) is on a big HIT job today.

Anyway...just give answers to two simple questions...
1. Who owns the UID database? Is it the Indian govt or private agencies/firms?
2. Which is the law that regulates the collection of biometric data, and Aadhaar itself? Don't hide behind the lapsed executive order as any such thing become irrelevant after six months.

Ravi S

5 years ago

Privacy or subversion?

Some privacy champions raise the privacy issue which is irrelevant in a poor country like India where about 750 million people starve for 2-square meal, where illiteracy is high, where religion & caste-based-bias continues, rampant corruption & exploitation exists. They forget that India has a law called Information Technology Act 2000. It has been in existence since year 2000 that protects Aadhaar information along with other laws.

Aadhaar registration collects biometric data and bare minimum information (proof of identity, age, and residence) through enrollment form. Peruse the Enrollment-Form with data fields on page-1 and instructions on page-2. No profiling information is collected, like religion, caste, income, property-holding, education etc.

Privacy issues and risks equally apply to information and data (with or without biometrics) provided by people to census office, tax office, passport office, driving license, vehicle registration, land and building registration, registration of birth, marriage and death, employers (current, past and prospective), banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, telephone service provider, television service provider, internet service provider, internet services (email, video, social media, search engine, chat, voice, file-storage and transfer etc.), registration at school/college, marriage bureaus, post-office and courier services, hospital registration and medical records, visa of US and UK etc.

In India, government departments, public and private sectors have been using biometrics (fingerprints and face photo) for years, decades and centuries in some or all offices. Examples of fingerprints usage are: Land and building registration (since British era), Defense departments (fingerprints as service record of civilian as well as service personnel since British era to modern day, also for access and attendance now), Planning Commission of India (for access and attendance), census office (for compulsory NPR), Passport, RTO (for driving license), insurance companies, IT, BPO and healthcare companies (for access and attendance), visa of US and UK etc. Aadhaar does not violate any privacy or fundamental right.

India has seen anti-modernization protests in the past too. Some people caused bandh & hartals in protest against modernization and computerization of Banking & Rail-ticket 25 years ago. Today people are very happy to enjoy bank ATM and to book rail-ticket from anywhere. Then they had argued that paper records were better than computers. Now those protesters never want to reveal that they ever protested against computerization.
Ironically, there is no opposition to collection of biometric data at other points of services. People stand in long queues to imprint biometrics for obtaining Indian passport, US, UK visa. The attendance & access of most of the IT & ITeS companies are biometric based. The attendance & access of the Planning Commission of India is also biometric based. People have been imprinting all ten-fingers plus details of eyes and other identification marks on body on the first day of joining employment in Defense department of India (civilian as well as service personnel) since British rule of India. Yet one never opposed all that.
The use of electronic devices provides no privacy; such as mobile phone, internet (particularly social network media), email, television, bank card, traffic camera. At any moment the government and the service provider knows of geographical location of people, of conversation on phone, with whom, what we are reading, writing or watching on internet, and what TV channel we are watching, when and for how long. All this is done under electronic surveillance thru device identifiers like IMEI, IP address, GPS etc.

Embassies have switched over to mechanical type-writers in 2013 after CIA worker Snowden’s disclosures. Government also knows our movements thru the traffic cameras on roads, our vehicle number plate, our face etc.
Despite this knowledge, the privacy champions do not want to stop using mobile phones, internet, TV etc. Their sole objective is subversion of Aadhaar, nothing else, and they will not succeed because Aadhaar has already crossed the critical-mass on 15-Aug-2013 by enrolling about 450 million people, assigning 400 million Numbers and linking 30 million bank accounts for Direct Benefit Transfer across many states. And as of November-2013, 500 million Aadhaar have been assigned.

Opponents of Aadhaar believe that snooping / surveillance cannot be done without Aadhaar. Then how Narendra Modi did the snooping of a girl in 2009 when Aadhaar did not exist? Intention of the powerful matters a lot!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveillance
http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/17/opinio...
http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/s...
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-electron...
http://www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/...

REPLY

Mumbai One

In Reply to Ravi S 5 years ago

Well...well...well!
Looks like the PR of UIDAI ( or pvt contractor, who may have suffered from such articles) is on a big HIT job today.

Anyway...just give answers to two simple questions...
1. Who owns the UID database? Is it the Indian govt or private agencies/firms?
2. Which is the law that regulates the collection of biometric data, and Aadhaar itself? Don't hide behind the lapsed executive order as any such thing become irrelevant after six months.

Ravi S

5 years ago


Opponents of Aadhaar believe that snooping / surveillance cannot be done without Aadhaar. Then how Narendra Modi did the snooping of a girl in 2009 when Aadhaar did not exist? Intention of the powerful matters a lot!

REPLY

Mumbai One

In Reply to Ravi S 5 years ago

Well...well...well!
Looks like the PR of UIDAI ( or pvt contractor, who may have suffered from such articles) is on a big HIT job today.

Anyway...just give answers to two simple questions...
1. Who owns the UID database? Is it the Indian govt or private agencies/firms?
2. Which is the law that regulates the collection of biometric data, and Aadhaar itself? Don't hide behind the lapsed executive order as any such thing become irrelevant after six months.

Ravi S

5 years ago

That is why half the nations of the world have National ID for residents.

REPLY

Mumbai One

In Reply to Ravi S 5 years ago

Well...well...well!
Looks like the PR of UIDAI ( or pvt contractor, who may have suffered from such articles) is on a big HIT job today.

Other nations dont use biometric profiling for NID, for your kind info.

Anyway...just give answers to two simple questions...
1. Who owns the UID database? Is it the Indian govt or private agencies/firms?
2. Which is the law that regulates the collection of biometric data, and Aadhaar itself? Don't hide behind the lapsed executive order as any such thing become irrelevant after six months.

mediavigil

6 years ago

Question that emerges is- will the companies succeed in its design to capture our biological data with the help of the Govt without robust political resistance?

Supreme Court refuses to modify its order on Aadhaar

While agreeing to give urgent hearing in the Aadhaar matter, the apex court refused to modify its earlier order

The union government and state-run oil marketing companies on Tuesday failed to get any relief from the Supreme Court over the unique identification (UID) or Aadhaar number. The apex court, while agreeing to give urgent hearing in the matter refused to modify its earlier order.

 

On 23rd September, the Supreme Court ruled that Aadhaar is not mandatory to avail essential services from the government. While hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by retired Karnataka High Court judge Justice KS Puttaswamy and advocate Parvesh Khanna questioning the legal sanctity of Aadhaar, the apex court said, "The centre and state governments must not insist on Aadhaar from citizens before providing them essential services."

 

The apex court will hear the matter on 22nd October.

 

Meanwhile, the Cabinet clears National Identification Authority of India Bill to provide statutory status to Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and legal backing to Aadhaar.

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COMMENTS

Dayananda Kamath k

6 years ago

when the matter is before supreme court sebi board has again approved adhaar based e-kyc. is it not contmept of court. without giving it a staturoy powers spending huge amounts of public money is it not mis management of publicmoney the finane minister himself has claimed it is a game changer. so it is being brought to bribe the voters. can govt squnder the public money for such purposes. it is clear case of misusing the authroity.this cabinet has taken all dicisions maliciously and it is conspiracy to sell the country. when there is no money in the kitty they are squandering the money. supremecourt should consider all these points suomoto before giving the judgement

Ramesh Iyer

6 years ago

Seems the UPA government has been pushing its luck, trying to get away with as much as it can, until the SC gives it a rap. What made the govt not get the statutory status earlier ?

Seems this UPA govt will act only when the SC forces it to.

Biometric identification is modern day enslavement -Part 2

The Database State is an exercise in outsourcing of government through technologies that govern individuals to admittedly undemocratic entities wherein biometric identification is being made a pre-condition for citizens to have any rights

Database State, a report from the UK revealed how the old maxim, 'If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear' has been given a very public burial. The report states, ”In October 2007, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs lost two discs containing a copy of the entire child benefit database. Suddenly issues of privacy and data security were on the front page of most newspapers and leading the TV news bulletins. The millions of people affected by this data loss, who may have thought they had nothing to hide, were shown that they do have much to fear from the failures of the database state.” Likewise, creating database containing biometrics is a giant leap towards authoritarian control by data mining companies. It turns citizens into subjects and suspected criminals, who can be kept under leash by control over sensitive data. Through convergence each data can be transformed into sensitive data.

 

If consent for it is granted by uninformed citizens then citizens become a number on a computer of a state actor or non–state actor engaged in ‘welfare’ services. This would automatically create a file on each citizen. In an effort to appear harmless, the claims are that the file would contain very little information like but as has now come to light it is being linked to ‘preventing terrorism’, ‘stopping crime’ or ‘protecting children’ etc. This in turn creates logic for profiling and tracking citizens based on their financial transactions, mobility, religion, caste, region, orientations, health records and driving record.
 

Right to privacy and freedom belong to citizens by right. It is not granted by government. A government is the servant of the citizens, not its master. Governments are supposed to seek the permission to limit these rights in certain circumstances. It signals a break-down of a democratic government if it chooses to engage in indiscriminate surveillance of citizens or to impose a system of compulsory identification or to open a file on each citizen or to criminalise citizens who refuse to comply as is proposed to be done by the Indian National Congress (Congress) led government with the connivance of the opposition parties.
 

When political candidates of Congress party and its allies stood up for elections and sought votes did they seek the mandate to put the voters under surveillance?  
 

The 'database state' is the tendency of the state and non-state actors to use computers and biometrics to manage society by putting people under watch by mouthing benevolent schemes and excuses.
 

Databasing people is akin to modern day enslavement by those who are wedded to the faith in property-based democracy. Slavery by whatever name is wrong on principle.
  

Non-state actors have prevailed on state agencies to adopt "Transformational Government" initiative. It might sound good unless one comprehends that what is being transformed is not government but it is power over citizens under the dictates of non-state actors.
 

This was attempted by UK’s Tony Blair government, which misled the world and its own citizens about Iraq having nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programme although it knew that it was not true. Not surprisingly, the British citizens could see through the fraudulent misrepresentation and voted for the coalition of David Cameron-Nick Clegg. UK's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said, “This government will end the culture of spying on its citizens. It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide. It has to stop. So there will be no ID card scheme. No national identity register, a halt to second generation biometric passports” in the British House of Commons.
 

Clegg added, “We won't hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so. Britain must not be a country where our children grow up so used to their liberty being infringed that they accept it without question. Schools will not take children's fingerprints without even asking their parent's consent. This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state.”
 

But the Sonia Gandhi-led coalition government in India chooses to follow the discredited path of Tony Blair and his UK's Identity Cards Act, 2006. Both, Blair and UKID Act, have been abandoned. 
 

Given the fact that ‘radical restructuring of the security architecture at the national level’ is underway, when Nandan Nilekani, the chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was asked more than two years back as to how tracking of citizens can get facilitated once different databases like National Population Register (NPR), National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS), Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), central monitoring system (CMS) , Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC), National Investigation Agency (NIA), national cyber coordination centre (NCCC), national critical information infrastructure protection centre (NCIIPC), telecom security directorate, Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations and UID are converged, you can actually track all the information. He responded saying, “I don't want to talk about that.” His silence is deafening. But intelligence agencies be it UIDAI or any or any of it incarnations are known for adopting such stances.
 

Under NATGRID, 21 sets of databases will be networked to achieve quick, seamless and secure access to desired information for intelligence/enforcement agencies, it is quite clear that the biometric databases under creation are meant for such agencies in India and elsewhere. The Rules made under the Information Technology Act, 2000 in April 2011 provide access to any data held by any "body corporate" in India. This does not apply to body corporate of foreign origin.
 

In such a backdrop, there is a compelling logic for VS Sampath, the Chief Election Commissioner, to rescind the dangerous proposal of Dr SY Quraishi, his predecessor, to Union Ministry of Home Affairs asking it “to merge the Election ID cards with UID”. Such an exercise would mean rewriting and engineering the electoral ecosystem with the unconstitutional and illegal use of biometric technology in a context where electoral finance has become source of corruption and black money in the country. This would lead to linking of biometric UID/Aadhaar, election ID and electronic voting machines (EVMs), which are not as innocent and as politically neutral as it has been made out to be. It is noteworthy that all EVMs have a UID number as well. This will amount to electoral surveillance.
 

Surveillance is a “shameful act” of supervising and imposing discipline on a subject through a hierarchy system of policing. Michel Foucault, the author of 'Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison' examined the systems of social power through the lens of the 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham, the originator of the now iconic Panopticon. This Panopticon was/is a design for a prison in which the inmate's cells are arranged in a circular fashion around a central guard tower. The architectural configuration allows for a single guard's gaze to view all inmates, but prevents those inmates from knowing exactly when they are being watched.
 

It was aptly observed, “The major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.” This design is a “generalised model of functioning and a way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday lives of men.”
 

In initiatives like biometric identification the subject, the citizen is seen but he/she does not see. He/she is the object of information, but never a subject in communication. Foucault's Panoptic model is quite valid for biometric database because these databases are meant to ensure real time tracking and profiling of citizens and turns them into subjects and in a slave like situation. Tumultuous colonial history of the technologies associated with surveillance reveal that the origins of surveillance happened during free trade of slaves.
 

Biometric identification treats Indian citizens worse than slaves. It is an act of identification prior to any act of omission and commission.  It is a case of a deepening of everyday surveillance. It is similar to what was done under the Britain's Habitual Criminals Act of 1869 required police to keep an “Alphabetical Registry” and cross-referenced “Distinctive Marks Registry. The first held names and the latter descriptions of scars, tattoos, birthmarks, balding, pockmarks, and other distinguishing features. This registry of marks was systematically disaggregated into nine general categories pertaining to regions of the body. Therefore there were files for the head and face; throat and neck; chest; belly and groin; back and loins; arms; hands and fingers; thighs and legs; feet and ankles.
 

The proposed convergence of biometric information with financial and personal data such as residence, employment, and medical history heralds the beginning of the demolition of one of the most important firewalls in the structure of privacy. Such convergence of databases poses a threat to minorities and political opponents as they can be targeted in a situation where government is led by any Nazi party like political formations.
 

Late Roger Needham, a British computer scientist aptly said, “If you think IT is the solution to your problem, then you don’t understand IT, and you don’t understand your problem either.” It sounds like he was addressing this observation to gullible citizens, political class and the likes of Capt Raghu Raman, the CEO of NATGRID Grid, Sam Pitroda, the head of Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, Nilekani and C Chandramouli, the Registrar General of India for National Population Register & Census Commissioner.
 

Safeguarding of citizens' privacy and their civil liberties in the face of an unprecedented onslaught from collection of biometric data and other related surveillance measures that are being bulldozed by unregulated and ungovernable technology companies by overawing the Governments through its marketing blitzkrieg is emerging as fight between the David and the Goliath. Database State cannot be the aim of any democratically healthy government. It is an exercise in outsourcing of government through technologies that govern individuals to admittedly undemocratic entities wherein biometric identification is being made a pre-condition for citizens to have any rights.
 

In effect, right to have rights is all set to be made dependent on being biometrically profiled and not on constitutional guarantees and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a regressive step that takes citizens to pre-Magna Carta days (1215 AD) or even earlier to the days prior to the declaration of Cyrus, the Persian King (539 BC) that willed freedom for slaves. Should it not be resisted?  
 

You may also want to read…
 

Why biometric identification of citizens must be resisted? Part I

 

(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)

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COMMENTS

Ravi S

5 years ago

Privacy or subversion?
Some privacy champions raise the privacy issue which is irrelevant in a poor country like India where about 750 million people starve for 2-square meal, where illiteracy is high, where religion & caste-based-bias continues, rampant corruption & exploitation exists. They forget that India has a law called Information Technology Act 2000. It has been in existence since year 2000 that protects Aadhaar information along with other laws.

Aadhaar registration collects biometric data and bare minimum information (proof of identity, age, and residence) through enrollment form. Peruse the Enrollment-Form with data fields on page-1 and instructions on page-2. No profiling information is collected, like religion, caste, income, property-holding, education etc.

Privacy issues and risks equally apply to information and data (with or without biometrics) provided by people to census office, tax office, passport office, driving license, vehicle registration, land and building registration,
registration of birth, marriage and death, employers (current, past and prospective), banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, telephone service provider, television service provider, internet service provider, internet services (email, video, social media, search engine, chat, voice, file-storage and transfer etc.), registration at school/college, marriage bureaus, post-office and courier services, hospital registration and medical records, visa of US and UK etc.

In India, government departments, public and private sectors have been using biometrics (fingerprints and face photo) for years, decades and centuries in some or all offices. Examples of fingerprints usage are: Land and building registration (since British rule), Defense departments (fingerprints as service record of civilian as well as service
personnel since British rule till now, also for access and attendance now), Planning Commission of India (for access and attendance), census office (for compulsory NPR), Passport, RTO (for driving license), insurance companies, IT, BPO and healthcare companies (for access and attendance), visa of US and UK etc. Aadhaar does not violate any privacy or fundamental right.

India has seen anti-modernization protests in the past too. Some people caused bandh & hartals in protest against modernization and computerization of Banking & Rail-ticket 25 years ago. Today people are very happy to enjoy bank ATM and to book rail-ticket from anywhere. Then they had argued that paper records were better than computers. Now those protesters never want to reveal that they ever protested against computerization.
Ironically, there is no opposition to collection of biometric data at other points of services. People stand in long queues to imprint biometrics for obtaining Indian passport, US, UK visa. The attendance & access of most of the IT & ITeS companies are biometric based. The attendance & access of the Planning Commission of India is also biometric based. People have been imprinting all ten-fingers plus details of eyes and other identification marks on body on the first day of joining employment in Defense department of India (civilian as well as service personnel) since British rule of India. Yet one never opposed all that.
The use of electronic devices provides no privacy; such as mobile phone, internet (particularly social network media), email, television, bank card, traffic camera. At any moment the government and the service provider knows of geographical location of people, of conversation on phone, with whom, what we are reading, writing or watching on internet, and what TV channel we are watching, when and for how long. All this is done under electronic surveillance thru device identifiers like IMEI, IP address, GPS etc.

Embassies have switched over to mechanical type-writers in 2013 after CIA worker Snowden’s disclosures. Government also knows our movements thru the traffic cameras on roads, our vehicle number plate, our face etc.
Despite this knowledge, the privacy champions do not want to stop using mobile phones, internet, TV etc. Their sole objective is subversion of Aadhaar, nothing else, and they will not succeed because Aadhaar has already crossed the critical-mass on 15-Aug-2013 by enrolling about 450 million people, assigning 400 million Numbers and linking 30 million bank accounts for Direct Benefit Transfer across many states. And as of November-2013, 500 million Aadhaar have been assigned.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveillance
http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/17/opinio...
http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/s...
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-electron...
http://www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/...

Ravi S

5 years ago

Who is afraid of Aadhaar & Why?
As the public databases are getting inter-linked one by one thru Aadhaar Number in various States (particularly Delhi, Maharashtra, Andhra), we see the following effects:
1. Middlemen & Officials are finding difficult to continue with corruption in public welfare pensions, scholarships, public health, NREGA, subsidy on PDS Ration, Kerosene, LPG etc.
2. Ineligible, duplicate and fictitious beneficiaries are getting eliminated from public welfare pensions, scholarships, public health, NREGA, subsidy on PDS Ration, Kerosene, LPG etc.
3. Corrupts will find difficult to buy & sell Benami land & building (i.e.under fictitious name).
4. Corrupts will find difficult to open & operate Benami companies for money-laundering.
5. Corrupts will find difficult to open & operate Benami bank accounts for keeping black-money.
6. Tax-evaders will find difficult to evade taxes.
7. Impersonation & proxy will be difficult to commit.
8. Criminals & Terrorists will get detected and tracked thru inter-linked databases of mobile phone, bank account, travel documents etc.
9. Illegal Immigrants will get detected and tracked thru inter-linked databases of mobile phone, bank account, travel documents etc. They will have no place to hide on Indian soil.
10. It will get difficult for Criminals to hide as records are getting accessible to Police from any State of India.
11. It will get difficult to obtain another new Driving License and Arms License from another State once it got impounded.
12. Fraudsters will not be able to steal Provident Fund money.
13. Onion Hoarders will get tracked easily.
14. Dummy candidates will not be able to write competitive exams for others for the sake of money.
15. Ineligible people will not be able to misuse the certificates of income, domicile, education degrees and caste to deprive the eligible people.

Deepak Gupta

6 years ago

The database state already exists for the common man doing a permanent job and paying income tax. Most transactions require some form of identification.

Now the identification is being extended to all residents. Doing it with a PAN and making it mandatory everywhere and using a biometric ID has one major difference - properly designed biometric ID is harder to avoid and fudge for most people.

In case of any universal ID, we need basic protection against use of data for purposes other than those specified in law.

In case of biometrics, we need an additional safeguard - that its use as a password of any kind must be optional and the option supported by additional methods of authentication in addition to biometrics.

In other words, even if the bank requires me to use fingerprints to operate an ATM, I MUST retain the right to also make mandatory for my account an additional password/secure token of some kind.

Why do I say so?
Passwords or any form of secure token are supposed to be private (Only I know mine) and dynamic (I can change it at will, if you somehow copy mine)

Biometrics are neither - they are not private as your prints can be easily picked up by someone following you around. Even more importantly, they cannot be changed once copied by someone. So, they can be used for identifying people, but are "complete nonsense" if used as only method of authenticating a transaction.

pravsemilo

6 years ago

Dear MDT / Mr Gopalkrishna,

Privacy is among the least understood concept in public. Most of the people simply abide to the "I have nothing to hide" argument and willingly submit themselves. I personally feel that what makes matters worse is impedance mismatch between the privacy advocates and the readers / audience. Whatever the privacy advocates say, is either too technical that it doesn't help the audience or it comes back to the same argument "I don't have anything to hide". For example http://tehlug.org/files/solove.pdf.

It would be better if you could do a writeup on privacy and why it is important and one which is for the layman.

Deepak

6 years ago

Despite your praise of UK, they have implemented a spy network over email and social networking, on the lines of the US system exposed by Snowdon. We have to get used to surviellance in the electronic age. It is a choice between corrupt and leaky systems which we have experienced so far and against which there is much popular grouse and agitation, and the efficient systems of UID with updated databases which can be interlinked to plug leakages, ensure rightful services/subsidies and ensure compliance to regulatory filings such as of tax returns. The later will see the country benefit and grow quickly, and also see the improvement of internal security. At a later stage, once things are better streamlined and computerised, the inter-linkage and privacy issues can be given greater attention and addressed.

REPLY

Sanjeev B

In Reply to Deepak 6 years ago

Deepak, it doesn't work that way.

Privacy is like virginity, once you lose it, you lose it. Ask any film actor whether they have any privacy.

The State has my Permanent Account Number. If I want state entitlements, I should register to pay my taxes (even if I don't need to pay anything). Once this is established, the Permanent Account can be used for debit as well as credit transactions. I think we forget that PAN stands for Permanent Account Number. If it's an Account, let's use it as one. So this will stop dishonest people from extra entitlements. If you want entitlements, show your track record on the payment side too.

To ensure one PAN per citizen, you need to keep track of collections and account for it.

You don't need the biometrics and DNA of your citizens, you just need a one-individual-one-account system.

Deepak

In Reply to Sanjeev B 6 years ago

Wrong. PAN has proved insufficient with people having multiple PAN nos. in different spellings of name or different names. Biometrics is a must for unique identification to a single person.

Mumbai One

In Reply to Deepak 6 years ago

First you need to understand what is leakage in a system like PDS. All AC room czars think it has to do with ID system need their brain mapped. The leakages are happening not due to lack of an ID, but because of greed and corruption. And believe me, nothing can stop the corruption, bribe at grass root levels.
Secondly, here is something from the minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, Prof KV Thomas. He said, "door-step delivery of foodgrains is very crucial and it needs to be ensured by State Governments as provided in the Act. States should create infrastructure for doorstep delivery to prevent leakage and diversion of foodgrains."
He also stressed the need for creation of scientific storage capacity and intermediate storage facilities at various levels.
Dont you think this speaks a lot than your arguments about UID helping plug leakages?

Deepak

In Reply to Mumbai One 6 years ago

Wrong. It is clearly seen in the existing system that people are able to make multiple LPG connections, multiple ration cards, multiple voter cards, etc. especially if they have residences in two states. Often, the combination or spelling of names is different. This makes it very difficult to trace duplicates across the nation as there could be even hundreds of people with the same name combination so there is no way of knowing whether they are the same person or different people. UID makes identification of such people a very simple matter as a person will be able to register only once with his biometrics and any duplicate registration in the same name or differently spelt name will immediately show up from his biometrics. Similarly, a person who is a high earner and income tax earner, will not be able to claim a benefit under a scheme for BPL as his tax details can be cross-verified through a single UID, which would not be possible in the present system where linking the income tax details with the BPL scheme details would not occur as they will be in two separate databases with no common reference.

pravsemilo

In Reply to Deepak 6 years ago

If you claim biometrics to be foolproof then how do you justify an Aadhar card for coriander (dhaniya patti) and mobile phone? Aadhar cards have been created with these name and photographs also.

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