Not just Indians, the US too is worried over UID
Moneylife Digital Team 25 April 2011

Many Indians have raised data security and privacy issues over the ambitious UID number project. Now, even the US is concerned that the number could be issued to terrorists through fake ID

While many citizens and privacy advocates in India have raised serious questions about the unique identification (UID) number, also known as the Aadhaar project, the United States is worried about security aspects of the project.

According to a report based on US diplomatic cables, accessed and published by The Hindu newspaper from WikiLeaks, the US was worried about the possible procurement of UID numbers by extremist groups and their effort to spoof or defeat biometric enrolment by alteration in fingerprints.

"The ostensible reason behind the interest in the US was that the project 'could present a vulnerable target for regional extremist groups-such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba-who could obtain fraudulent Indian ID cards during the large-scale enrolment for use in travel or as breeder documents to apply for passports'. Hence, the State Department wanted to know what security features would be incorporated in the card, and anti-fraud measures adopted, and if any encryption method would be used," the report said.

The cables, sent on 17 December 2009 from the office of the Secretary of State under the name of Hillary Clinton, asked the US Embassy in New Delhi to find out the motivation behind the (Aadhaar) project and to collect as much information about it as possible.

"Specific instructions were given to Embassy officials to report on any efforts to 'spoof' or defeat biometric enrolment, such as fingerprint alteration," the newspaper report said.

Although, the US has raised apprehensions about the UID number project, there are chances that it may have changed its opinion since. For, at the time, let alone US authorities, many Indian officials were in the dark about how the project would be implemented. Also, today, numerous big-profit organisations-many of them 'influential' companies from the US-have partnered with the UID Authority of India (UIDAI). (Read, "UIDAI's not-so-'clean' partners and their tainted executives".)

Last year, the UIDAI selected three consortia-Accenture, Mahindra Satyam-Morpho and L-1 Identity Solutions-to implement the core biometric identification system for the Aadhaar programme. UIDAI had stated that the three agencies would design, supply, install, commission, maintain and support the multimodal automatic biometric identification subsystem. The three vendors would also be involved in the development of a multimodal software development kit (SDK) for client enrolment stations, the verification server, manual adjudication and monitoring functions of the UID application.

L-1 Identity Solutions, in particular, has names in its top management, or directors, who have been associated with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other American defence organisations. Over the years, particularly after taking some top-notch 'retired' intelligence and defence officials on board, L-1 Solutions has made rapid progress.

French aerospace and defence systems company Safran, bought L-1 Identity Solutions for about $1.6 billion. After the announcement last September, there was a furore in the US. At the time, one blogger from the US wrote, "Just think about how happy you can feel now knowing that your personal information including your social security number and biometric information (fingerprints, iris scans and digital facial images) may soon be available to a French company. The federal government must sign off on the deal before the deal can be sealed. All this brings us back to the topic of the revolving door that exists between government and corporations."

Interestingly, even as Safran was announcing the deal to buy L-1 Identity Solutions, the UIDAI gave a purchase order worth $24.5 million for fingerprint and iris biometric capturing devices in September 2010. The White House, however, announced the deal during the visit of US President Barack Obama to India in November last year.

Although the concerns raised by the US over the UID card for Indian residents are still valid, it leaves one wondering whether Uncle Sam would pursue these issues even after fulfilling its commercial interests.

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1 decade ago
Basically US is trying to create some kind of fear in the minds of the people of India by saying this. Julian Assange keeps making whole US Diplomats naked every now and then and still they say they are concerned about security aspect of UID.
Ashok Moda
1 decade ago
Respected UID Board members & Mr. Nilekeni
In my view, a UID card one must carry FREELY at all times with him, so the best is to give a visible embossing prints like on Credit card, details only his UID No., Contact No.(other than his own) may be spouse or may be introducer, his photo and his signature. His name, address, and other information is not required on the card as India is a multi religion nation and these information on the card may lead to misutilisation, you understand like during riots etc. some people would not like to disclose their identity or at some other time a third party may misutilise the other informations. Besides this is issued in the interest of national security and of course all other informations could be easily obtain at any time from the central repository. This is like you have recorded each and every citizen or individual. Next if you can add the recording of all financial transactions, say above rupees one thousand, made by each individual, be his personal expense or a salary or a business transaction, I feel both the records of people and financial fraud / transaction can easily be under check and well controlled.
Please pressurise the authority to make it must carry card, mandatory and only for the Indian citizen and for foreigners, they always carry their passport, anyway. So no need to be confused.
Regarding UID no. it can be the first character of his given name, first character of his last name, three characters of his state of birth, eight characters of his date of birth i.e. DD MM YYYY and finally the 001, three digits serial numbers. All these 16 digits, you mast must have noticed quite easily remember-able, even by a most illitrate ones as he only has to remember the last three digits. Chances of duplication is again reduced by names, state, DOB and serial no.
Well sir, you must have designed in a better way, but please let me request you once again not to disclose MY ID and allow me to carry my card at all time or attach it to my financial transactions so that I have no choice but to carry it always with me.
Thanking you
Ashok Moda
[email protected]
1 decade ago
1 decade ago
i guess the US should mind its own business. we are capable enough of running the largest ,multi party democracy in the world through such a complex electoral process . the man heading this project is an icon who knows the magnanimity of the job at hand. there may be some leakages and there will be attempts in future too. but just like the benefits of air travel outdo the downsides, the benefits of democracy out do the demerits, similarly the benefits of uid far outdo its possible drawbacks.
1 decade ago
security is main aspect while making such large potential project . as the contracts have been delivered to many companies , there is question mark over security. UIDAI havent declared security patches ON WEBSITE
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