NGO questions people's privacy in UID scheme

by Prasad Krishna last modified Jan 12, 2012 11:45 AM
Taking a leaf out of the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee on finance (SCF) that raised objections on the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010, Delhi-based NGOs have called upon the Jharkhand government to stay the execution of UID projects in the state. Jaideep Deogharia's article was published in the Times of India on 11 January 2012.

Citing excerpts from the recommendations of the SCF, headed by BJP MP Yashwant Sinha, the NGO activists asserted that the MoU signed by the government on June 25, 2010, was without any legal and constitutional mandate.

This claim, however, remains unfounded as the UIDAI is functioning under an executive order of the department of planning and has no links with the NIDAI Bill. The issue was recently clarified by the director general and mission director of UIDAI when he addressed the media in the capital during his three-day visit.

Organizing a round table, report on SCF and its implications for Aadhaar project and National Population register for multipurpose National ID Card (MNIC),

Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties member Gopal Krishna said given the fact that the Election Commission had shortlisted 15 documents as evidence of identity and citizenship, there was no need to have the 16th instrument (read UID).

"It violates citizens' basic and constitutional right to privacy because collecting biometric information of an individual was limited to criminals," he said clarifying that even in case of prisoners, the fingerprint data is supposed to be deleted after acquittal under the Prisoner Identification Act.

JT D'Souza, an expert in biometrics technology, Mumbai, gave a presentation on how biometric information was vulnerable to exploitation. Using a finger print reader, he demonstrated fake finger prints being read by the machine. He said a fingerprint on a semi solid wax slab can be filled up with adhesive and allowed to set for eight hours. "Once the adhesive block is removed, it takes up the exact marks of finger prints using which any finger print reader can be fooled," he said.

Another participant, Sunil Abraham, director, Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, said there is no data protection or privacy law in place. "The UID project was allowed to march on without any protection being put in place," he said.

"On one hand, the government wants its citizens to be transparent by giving all their biometric and demographic data, but on the other hand, people in higher authorities are making every bid to conceal facts and function in a non-transparent manner," he said.

D' Souza also raised questions about the uniqueness of fingerprints as it has never been tested on a vast population. Citing examples from foreign countries where fingerprint studies have proved to be ineffectual in establishing non duplication, he said biometric data if hacked could be misused.

Read the original published in the Times of India

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