Impact Of Cyber Technology On Foreign Policy: An Inquiry Into The Implications Of 12- Digit Biometric Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar Number For Indian Residents
In a series of three misleading tweets, Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY)’s Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) communicated security advice on November 11, 2016 through its Twitter handle @UIDAI. UIDAI’s tweet read: We urge you to be very discreet about your Aadhaar & other identity documents. Do not share the document no. or a printed copy with anyone. It further tweeted: Wherever you are submitting a copy of your Aadhaar, self-attest it and state the purpose clearly to avoid misuse. UIDAI subsequent message reads: If there has been a misuse, you can take legal action. These messages constitute an exercise in gross factual misrepresentation and hides disturbing facts about how “national assets” of Indian residents have been exposed to unprecedented security risk by UIDAI.
It is noteworthy that UIDAI’s message saying, “If there has been a misuse, you can take legal action" is an expression of half-truth. Section 47(1) of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies and Services) Act, 2016 reads: “No court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under this Act, save on a complaint made by the Authority or any officer or person authorised by it.” Thus, even when there is misuse, such a complaint can only be made by UIDAI.
The glaring fact is that MeitY’s UIDAI has not been discreet about 12 digit biometric unique identification (UID)/Aadhaar Number. The very first document that Indian residents encounter in this regard is “Aadhaar Enrolment Form’. This form is available at UIDAI’s website.
The column no. 8 at page no. 1 reads: “I have no objection to the UIDAI sharing information provided by me to the UIDAI with agencies engaged in delivery of welfare services.” Now the issue is that if residents are promised that enrolment is “voluntary” they may give their consent unaware of its ramifications but if they know that it is made “mandatory”, they are may refuse to give their consent. The column no. 8 in the Aadhaar Enrolment Form at page no. 1 refers to “agencies engaged in delivery of welfare services” but does not define who these agencies are. It appears that its definition has deliberately been kept vague. Which are the agencies that are involved in delivery of welfare services? Aren’t security agencies and commercial agencies with ulterior motives included in it?
At page no. 2 of the Aadhaar Enrolment Form, it provides, “Instructions to follow while filling up the enrolment form” which states that column no. 8 is about seeking consent from an Indian “Resident (who) may specifically express willingness / unwillingness by selecting the relevant box” by ticking “yes” or “no” option.
In the contract agreement between the President of India, as purchaser, and L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company, as a "Biometric Solution Provider", it has been officially admitted that the latter is a corporation of US based in Delaware as of 24 August 2010. L-1 has since been bought over by French corporate conglomerate, Safran Group after the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) was convinced that there are no unresolved national security concerns with respect to the transaction. L-1 Identity Solutions announced agreement to be acquired by Safran on 20 September 2010.
From the contract agreement between the President of India, as purchaser and Accenture Services Pvt Ltd as a "Biometric Solution Provider", dated 1 September 2010, it is evident that it has not been disclosed that Accenture Services Pvt Ltd is a subsidiary of Dublin, Ireland-based Accenture plc, a US company. Till 1 January 2001, it was known as Andersen Consulting. As a consequence of French corporate conglomerate Safran’s purchase of US company L-1 Identity Solutions, the de-duplication contracts of UIDAI’s Centralized Identities Data Repository (CIDR) and Home Ministry’s National Population Register (NPR) which was given to foreign companies on 30 July 2010 to three companies now lies with two companies of French and US origin, namely Safran Group and Accenture.
UIDAI has not disclosed whether there has been any fresh agreement between UIDAI and Safran Group and its subsidiaries, and who all are the biometric solution providers after the expiry of the “contractual obligations” with L-1 Identity Solution and Accenture. The contract agreement with Accenture Services Pvt Ltd at clause 15.1 reads: "By virtue of this Contract, M/s Accenture Services Pvt Ltd/Team of M/s Accenture Services Pvt Ltd may have access to personal information of the Purchaser and/or a third party or any resident of India, any other person covered within the ambit of any legislation as may be applicable." The purchaser is President of India through UIDAI. The clause 15.3 reads: "The Data shall be retained by Accenture Services Pvt Ltd not more than a period of 7 years as per Retention Policy of Government of India or any other policy that UIDAI may adopt in future."
The contract agreement with L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company at clause 15.1 reads: "By virtue of this Contract, M/s L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company/Team of M/s L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company may have access to personal information of the Purchaser and/or a third party or any resident of India, any other person covered within the ambit of any legislation as may be applicable." The purchaser is President of India through UIDAI.
The clause 15.3 of this agreement too reads: "The Data shall be retained by L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company not more than a period of 7 years as per Retention Policy of Government of India or any other policy that UIDAI may adopt in future."
Impact of Patriot Act
This implies that all the biometric data of Indians which has been collected so far is now available to US Government and French Government. The Patriot Act, 2001 granted new powers to the U.S. authorities. This Act is a "framework law" that amended and strengthened older laws, such as the Foreign Intelligence Services Act (FISA) and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Given the fact that most cloud providers, and certainly the market leaders, fall within the U.S. jurisdiction either because they are U.S. companies or conduct systematic business in the U.S, the admitted “use of Aadhaar-based authentication across the supply chain (that) gives governments the opportunity to link such authentication to a cloud-based management information system (MIS)” is fraught with unprecedented security risk to which UIDAI has exposed all the Indian residents. Are the agencies with whom UIDAI on behalf of President of India has signed contract agreements like foreign surveillance technology companies like Accenture Services Pvt Ltd, USA, Ernst & Young, USA, L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company, now France (as part of Safran group), Satyam Computer Services Ltd (Mahindra Satyam), as part of a “Morpho-led consortium” (Safran group), France and Sagem Morpho Security Pvt. Ltd (Safran group), France “engaged in delivery of welfare services”. It has been admittedly that these agencies have access to personal information of the Purchaser and/or a third party or any resident of India for at least 7 years as per Retention Policy of Government of India or any other policy that UIDAI may adopt in future. The purchaser is President of India through UIDAI.
At the outset, it seemed surprising as to why L1, which was a high value company of USA that worked with the USA’s intelligence, was sold to French conglomerate Safran group which has a 40 year partnership with China. It also seemed puzzling as to why the contract amount given to Sagem Morpho of Safran Group is not being disclosed. But with the disclosure of non-traceability of financial data with regard to French conglomerate’s Sagem Morpho and emergence of the possible relationship of UIDAI with US based agencies like In-Q-Tel and MongoDB on the horizon, such transactions do not appear astounding anymore.
Now the question is did these agencies have access to biometric and demographic data of even those residents of India who did not give consent as per Column 8 of UID/aadhaar enrolment form for sharing information provided by them to the UIDAI with these agencies who do seem to be engaged in delivery of welfare services.
There is no confusion as to why such agencies of the USA, France and China are eager to get hold of the biometric database of Indians. “Biometrics Design Standards For UID Applications” prepared by UIDAI’s Committee on Biometrics states in its recommendations that “Biometrics data are national assets and must be preserved in their original quality.”
At the very outset, the UID/Aadhaar Enrolment Form makes a declaration is that “Aadhaar Enrolment is free and voluntary.” This is a declaration of Government of India.
As a consequence, all the agencies, State Governments, the Government of India and the “agencies engaged in delivery of welfare services “ are under legal and moral obligation to ensure that it cannot be made mandatory. As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, it has simply stated what the Prime Minister himself has promised. What the Court has done in its interim order is to simply reiterate the significance of the promise made by the Government of India. If programs, projects and schemes are launched in breach of the Prime Minister’s promise, it will set a very bad and unhealthy precedent and no one ever in future trust the promise made by any Prime Minister. In the matter of National Identification Authority of India (NIAI) Bill, 2010, “NHRC’s views on the NIAI Bill, 2010″ in the Human Rights Newsletter (Vol. 18 No.8, August 2011) reveals that biometric UID/Aadhaar Number has dangerous ramifications is quite relevant in this regard. NHRC’s view was presented to the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance.
NHRC’s view on “need for protection of information” and “the possibility of tampering with stored biometric information” and “disclosure of information in the interest of national security” has been ignored by UIDAI because it has accepted the principles and procedures of surveillance fixed by the World Bank Group. It is apparent that it is facilitating surveillance of the nation, citizens and the national assets by transnational actors with impunity. It has structurally adjusted the national institutions to ensure it. Can non-Congress opposition parties demonstrate the political courage to make UID/Aadhaar, an electoral issue in the Parliament and in the upcoming assembly elections in national interest or do they agree with Humpty Dumpty that surveillance means “cooperation, partnership, and consultation”!
It is noteworthy that UID/Aadhaar users do not have the right to be informed when a crime related to their personal data collected by UIDAI occurs, nor will they be able to approach a court directly because the UIDAI alone has the exclusive power to make complaints in case of any violation, or breach of privacy.
In the light of above facts, it is abundantly clear that UIDAI’s series of tweets on security advice, misuse and legal action is misleading. Supreme Court which is seized with the controversial matter regarding 12- digit biometric unique identification (UID)/Aadhaar Number ought to intervene “urgently” because it has been admitted by the Chief Justice headed Constitution Bench that it an urgent matter, involving security of the nation and the residents and citizens of India.
It is apparent that the role of Supreme Court Registry is becoming more crucial than Constitution Bench’s order in this regard.
The Report of Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Information Technology on Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Right to Privacy presented to the Parliament reveals that Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) has signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Computer Emergency Response Team, US (US-CERT), Japanese Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Centre (JP-CERT/CC), National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), South Korea, Computer Emergency Response Team, Mauritius (CERT Mauritius, Computer Emergency Response Team, Kazakhstan (CERT Kazakhstan) and Government of Finland for international cyber security cooperation arrangements. The Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) has signed a MoU with Canada in ICT and electronics sector. This report was submitted to the Parliament on 12 February 2014. As per report, the DeitY with the help of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is having engagement dialogue with several countries such as Malaysia, Israel, Egypt, Canada and Brazil on cyber security incidents and vulnerabilities in IT products and systems.
As the UIDAI and its UID/Aadhaar Number project is hosted again in DeitY (now MeitY), it appears relevant for PSC on External Affairs to inquire about the relationship between the above mentioned MoUs with foreign governments and UIDAI’s Unique Identity (UID)/Aadhaar Number related projects and contracts.
It should be noted that in its report to Parliament, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance has taken on board studies done in the UK on the identity scheme that was begun and later withdrawn in May 2010, where the problems were identified to include "(a) huge cost involved and possible cost overruns; (b) too complex; (c)untested, unreliable and unsafe technology; (d) possibility of risk to the safety and security of citizens; and (e) requirement of high standard security measures, which would result in escalating the estimated operational costs." This committee had noted that UIDAI and its Aadhaar project are in contempt of Parliament.
In the matter of biometric Aadhaar number project, a three-judge bench of Supreme Court noted, in its 11 August 2015 order, that the project “is under attack on various counts.” A Chief Justice-led bench of Punjab & Haryana High Court also noted that Aadhaar’s legality was questionable. This order of the court has was reiterated again by a Chief Justice of India-headed five-judge Constitution Bench in its order dated 15 October 2015. This bench was constituted on the request of Attorney General of India who has informed the court that right to privacy is not a fundamental right contrary to court’s orders. The fact is that court has conclusively established privacy jurisprudence on 4 July 2011 by its judgment in the Ram Jethmalani and Others vs Union of India and Others case, the black money case. The court held: “Right to privacy is an integral part of right to life. This is a cherished constitutional value and it is important that human beings be allowed domains of freedom that are free of public scrutiny unless they act in an unlawful manner … as constitutional adjudicators we always have to be mindful of preserving the sanctity of constitutional values, and hasty steps that derogate from fundamental rights, whether urged by governments or private citizens, howsoever well meaning they may be, have to be necessarily very carefully scrutinised.” In such a situation, there is an urgent need for the PSC to undertake rigorous scrutiny of the MoUs signed with foreign transnational communication technology companies and governments.
It must also be noticed that even the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 (currently in force), reads: “The object of this bill is to provide legal authority for taking measurements, finger impressions, footprints and photographs of persons convicted of, or arrested in connection with, certain offences.” According to the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, at the time of the acquittal of the prisoner, his biometric data is required to be destroyed. Since 1857, fingerprint identification methods have been used by police agencies in India and around the world to identify suspected rebels, political dissidents and criminals. The method is unfolding to indiscriminately profile citizens in general to identify them. The Aadhaar project, however, stores the biometric data forever. This makes citizens worse than prisoners.
The citizens’ opposition to UID/Aadhaar has a historical context. It is linked to more than a century old world famous 'Satyagraha' of Mahatma Gandhi in order to oppose the identification scheme of the government in South Africa. On 22 August, 1906, the South African government published a draft Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance. The ordinance required all Indians in the Transvaal region of South Africa, eight years and above, to report to the Registrar of Asiatics and obtain, upon the submission of a complete set of fingerprints, a certificate which would then have to be produced upon demand. The move proposed stiff penalties, including deportation, for Indians who failed to comply with the terms of the Ordinance. Knowing the impact of the Ordinance and effective criminalisation of the entire community, Mahatma Gandhi then decided to challenge it. Calling the Ordinance a 'Black Act', he mobilised around 3,000 Indians in Johannesburg who took an oath not to submit to a degrading and discriminatory piece of legislation. Biometric Aadhaar case demonstrates how 'Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it'. Biometric profiling is inherently dangerous because it tracks individuals based on their religious, behavioural and/or biological traits. History is replete with examples wherein such profiling has been used for genocide, holocaust and violence against all kinds of minorities.
In fact such profiling with biometric UID/Aadhaar is fraught with dangers of genocide and communal crisis at the local, regional and national level.
What the government’s proposal means is underlined in a confidential document of UIDAI titled ‘Creating a unique identity number for every resident in India’, leaked by Wikileaks on 13 November, 2009. It revealed, “One way to ensure that the unique identification (UID) number is used by all government and private agencies is by inserting it into the birth certificate of the infant. Since the birth certificate is the original identity document, it is likely that this number will then persist as the key identifier through the individual’s various life events, such as joining school, immunizations, voting etc.” This paved way for alround surveillance adversely impacting political rights of present and future generations guaranteed by the preamble of the Constitution of India and is making right to civil liberties extinct. It is making right to have rights dependent on having biometric UID/Aadhaar Number.
A judicial verdict in the UK, in a case filed by Labour MP Tom Watson and Conservative MP David Davis, UK’s High Court declared the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), 2014 as illegal. This Act provided access to everyone’s data by the police and other agencies including permission for interception of communications. Interception of biometric data also falls in the same category.
It is noteworthy that in the case of Aadhaar, Parliament’s consent was never taken despite explicit reference to its need by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance.
On 10 March, 2015, Press Information Bureau, Union Ministry of Home Affairs, issued a press release titled “Legal Framework and Parliamentary Scrutiny over Intelligence Agencies” It reads: “There is no information on the reported refusal of the RBI and other banks to provide NATGRID an access to their database. As per Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) mandate, the information/ data relating to Financial Sector has to be obtained by NATGRID through Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). A nodal officer has already been appointed by FIU to have interaction with NATGRID. The issue of accountability of Intelligence Agencies like IB and RAW, and oversight mechanism including by a Parliamentary Committee is the subject matter of a Writ Petition in the Supreme Court, in which the Government has taken a view that the existing oversight structure is adequate. The matter is sub-judice at present. The NATGRID and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) have not been declared as Intelligence Agencies.” It is noteworthy that this was stated by the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary in a written reply to Dr. Tharoor in the Lok Sabha.
The ambiguous farming of the sentence regarding NATGRID and UIDAI having “not been declared as Intelligence Agencies” merits rigorous parliamentary scrutiny.
The Annual Report of Home Ministry (2009-2010) on page 26 reads, “Government have, in principle, agreed to set up National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID).” The Annual Report of Home Ministry for 2011-12 reads: “NATGRID has been set up as an attached office of the Ministry of Home Affairs in April, 2010. NATGRID will link databases for constructing actionable intelligence to combat terrorism and internal security threats. It is mandated to create a facility that improves India's capability to counter internal security threats… (For the same) 39 posts at various levels have been created.” It may be recalled that NATGRID was given in-principle approval by the Union government on 6 June, 2011 after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security to facilitate convergence of information from 21 categories of database such as railway and air travel, income tax, bank account details, credit card transactions and visa and immigration records including combined data of 11 agencies, including the Research and Analysis Wing, the Intelligence Bureau, the Enforcement Directorate, the National Investigation Agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the Narcotics Control Bureau. It is claimed that the idea of NATGRID emerged after the Mumbai terror attacks of November 26, 2008 but reports indicated that Ministries of Defence and Finance had reservations about it. UID/aadhaar was formally in pipeline at least since 2006-2007. The detailed project report of NATGRID was ready in December 2010. Both appear to be part of Transformation Government project of World Bank Group that failed in UK.
Expressing concern about the conspiracy of the non-state actors that disturbs the confidence of ‘global investor’, the 121-page 2009 report of the Task Force on National Security and Terrorism constituted by the undeclared undemocratic political party of pre-independence times - Federation of Indian Commerce and Industry (FICCI), at page 70, argues for a secure E-network for connecting all district headquarters and police stations NATGRID under National Counter Terrorism Agency. It observed, “As Central Government goes into operationalising the UIDAI, there is a case for factoring inclusion data as part of the national grid to assist in counter terrorism.” This is not the first time that NATGRID and UID/Aadhaar link is underlined. Another joint report of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM), an undeclared political party of companies and KPMG, Swiss Consultancy titled “Homeland Security in India, 2010” had revealed it. ASSOCHAM’s joint report of June 2011 with Aviotech, an initiative of the promoters of the Deccan Chronicle Group titled “Homeland Security Assessment India: Expansion and Growth” refers to the “The requirement in Biometrics for all the subsequent programs under the National Census will become significant. This shows where the NPR program which is linked to UID is headed.” The report refers to possible targeting of Indian, Western and Jewish installations as retaliation against ongoing North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a 28-nation military alliance led operations in Afghanistan.
It is noteworthy that the origins of the UID and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) process within the US Department of Defense started under Michael Wynne, former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) from 2003 till 2005. Within NATO, two documents deal so far with unique identification (UID) of items. The first one is standardization agreement, which was ratified in 2010. The second one is a “How to” guide for NATO members willing to enter in the UID business. Is India a NATO member? It appears to be behaving like one under some structural compulsion. The PSC should inquire into UID/Aadhaar as part of NATO’s global policy to ascertain how it serves India’s national interest.
A Nation of Numb People
UIDAI and its database based on Aadhaar number is linked to NATGRID. We wish to draw your attention towards a paper by Capt. Raghu Raman who was hired as chief executive officer of the NATGRID project by the MHA. Capt. Raman is the author of a four-page document titled A Nation of Numb People urging “commercial czars” to protect “their empires” because “Internal security is falling apart.” So, ‘It’s time for the corporates to step in.’ He advises ‘Enterprises would need to raise their own protection units...’ ‘Think of it,’ he says ‘as a private territorial army.’
It is noteworthy that Capt Raman has been the Chairman of Internal Security Committee, Bombay Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI), Head of Subgroup on Industry Guidelines, a Member of National Task Force on Internal Security, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Member of Citizens' Advisory Committee appointed by the Bombay High Court, Member, Advisory Council, India Information Security Conference and member of the London Speaker Bureau. He is the former CEO of Mahindra Special Services Group (MSSG) - a leading corporate security risk consulting firm that helps organizations reduce risk and enhance competitive advantage. He has been Coordinator for IT in Mahindra United World College. He was the CEO of AutomartIndia (now known as FirstChoice). He arrived in India to address the insecurities of corporations.
Capt Raman has been facilitating corporation’s desire to control population as is evident from FICCI’s 2008 December report on National Security and Terrorism, and ASSOCHAM and KPMG’s 2010 report on Homeland Security in India, which underlines the link between NATGRID and the UID/Aadhaar as tracking devices. In May 2011, the government extended the services of NATGRID CEO Capt Raman for six months from 1 June 2011. Approval for it was withheld last year. Capt Raman had the responsibility of setting up the IT infrastructure, including the hugely ambitious internet connectivity link - a convergence project in his earlier incarnations besides having been trained in hacking into Foundstone and in Competitive Intelligence in the US. The current government did not renew the contract of Capt Raman but NATGRID is unfolding the way UIDAI’s project is unfolding even in the formal absence of Nilekani from the government. These World Bank Group’s initiatives do not promote India’s supreme national interest and compromises its foreign policy.
UID/Aadhaar Number is linked to Islamabad-based National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) that was established in March 2000 to provide integrated homeland security solutions in Pakistan. Earlier, it was established as National Database Organization (NDO), an attached department under the Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan in 1998. On 10 March 2000, NDO & Directorate General of Registration (DGR) merged to form NADRA, an independent corporate body with requisite autonomy to operate independently and facilitate good governance. With the mandate of developing a system for re-registering 150 million citizens, NADRA launched the Multi-Biometric National Identity Card project developed in conformance with international security documentation issuance practices in the year 2000. The program replaced the paper-based Personal Identity System of Pakistan that had been in use since 1971.This year is also quite important. To date, over 96 million citizens in Pakistan and abroad have utilized the system and its allied services to receive tamper-resistant ISO standard identification documents. NADRA has developed solutions based on biometrics and RFID technology and has the largest IT infrastructure in Pakistan with highly qualified technical and managerial resources enabling NADRA to provide customized solutions to any country. The million-dollar question is: Is there any development indicator that suggests that citizens or residents in Pakistan have benefited from UID version (Multi-Biometric National Identity Card project) there?
Senior officials of NADRA and UIDAI like Tariq Malik and Nandan Manohar Nilekani have been awarded by ID WORLD International Congress, the Global Summit on Automatic Identification in Milan, Italy which is sponsored by agencies like American Bank Notes Corporation and a French biometric technology company, Morpho, Safran group's security unit that too has got contracts from UIDAI.
Wikileaks cable reveals how the USA’s State department is interested in knowing about India’s Unique Identification program, a biometric database of the world’s largest democracy. The information sought by the US authorities is available on Wikileaks website. It also appears that UNDP’s “Innovation Support for Social Protection” as part of financial surveillance plan is also linked to it.
Although UIDAI claims that UID/Aadhaar number scheme is for residents of India, C Rangarajan Committee on the Collection of Statistics Act reveals in Para titled ‘Centralised Database of Citizens (Population Register)’ that “A centralised database of the citizens of the country with a system of issuing a unique identification number/card has several potential benefits to its citizens and will improve the efficiency of administration. The project, if implemented, will have obvious benefits to the statistical system.”
In the UK war-time documents for identification were abolished in 1952 but in 2007, ID cards were re-introduced by Shri James Hall who moved from US-based biometric technology company, Accenture, to become head of the UK's Identity & Passport Service In October 2006. UK’s David Cameron-led government abandoned the ID project introduced by Tony Blair. Hall lost his job.
Nilekani moved from Infosys on 9 July 2009 to serve as the chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and awarded a contract to Accenture Services Pvt. Ltd, Hall’s former company for the Implementation of Biometric Solution for UIDAI on 30 July 2010. UID/Aadhaar project is part of the World Bank eTransform Initiative for "Transformational Government” launched in partnership with six transnational companies and two national governments-France and South Korea.
Countries like China, Australia, the UK and France have rejected biometric profiling-based identification projects like Aadhaar. This is open declaration of war against citizens’ sensitive personal information like biometric data by transnational entities and governments captured by them paves way for the enslavement of present and future generations through Aadhaar database that lies on cloud beyond Indian jurisdiction. Such initiatives must be stopped and boycotted else it will spread its tentacles in every sphere of life and mobility in the country.
The Central government itself has filed several written affidavits in the court contending that right to privacy is a fundamental right. It is remarkable that one former Union Law Minister has complained to the Prime Minister informing him about the blunders being committed by the law officer in question.
These developments and the implementation of 12- digit biometric unique identification (UID)/Aadhaar Number have implications for Indian foreign policy. This creates a compelling logic to factor in the findings of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden who have put their lives at risk to tell Indian government, Indians and others that they are being spied upon by foreign governments, banks and transnational surveillance technology companies. Unless framers of foreign policy factor in the ungovernability of these technologies present and future presidents, prime ministers, judges, legislators and officials handling sensitive assignments may become redundant with reference to their age-old roles.
This paper was presented at XL Indian Social Science Congress on 19-23 December 2016, held at Mysore University
The author is member, Citizen’s Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL). He had appeared before the Parliamentary Standing on Finance that examined and trashed the Aadhaar Bill, 2010. He is the editor of www.toxicswatch.org .
[The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of LiveLaw and LiveLaw does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same]