The Aadhaar project was initiated as an attempt towards having a single, unique identification document or number that would capture all the details, including demographic and biometric information, of every resident Indian individual.
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UDAI), which functions under the Planning Commission of India, is responsible for managing Aadhaar numbers and Aadhaar identification cards.
The current state of Aadhaar:
The government managed to pass the Finance Bill, which made Aadhaar mandatory for services from getting a SIM card to filing taxes. Yes, the same Aadhaar that makes a database of citizens’ fingerprints and iris scans, and that until recently was optional.
In yet another persistent push to literally shovel the Aadhaar Card into Indian identity, it’s now mandatory for poor women to have it in order to procure free cooking gas. Interestingly, even though the Supreme Court had clarified that Aadhaar Card is not mandatory for the mid may meal, the government was still authoritative. As if this new syndrome had not percolated enough, even IRCTC mentioned that in the coming plan for the year 2017-2018, only travelers with Aadhaar Card would be able to book tickets online. Along with National Social Assistance Programme, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, public distribution scheme, LPG Subsidies and Jan Dhan Yojana, the government is aggressively going to make Aadhaar Card a mandatory official necessity.
Alright we get it…making an unified unique identity can be very helpful in curating various benefit schemes for the general public, monitor financial status of a citizen, proportionally calculate taxes and all in all the progress of the nation.
But how safe is this system?
Aadhaar is on it’s way to becoming the only identity card in the future. But, a major component is biometric identification technology, and technology can always fail. What happens if a software cannot recognise you? Or what if you don’t have biometrics that can be scanned?
With Aadhaar, you’ve given your fingerprints and iris scans to the government – the things that definitively set you apart from the next person. But, where do you go if you can’t prove your identity to get food for your child or medical aid for your ailing parent?
For enrolling to get an Aadhaar number,these three parameters are scanned for biometrics – iris, fingerprints and face.
However, these are only for the ages 5 years and over. While people with visual disabilities were incorporated in the initial sample size, that isn’t the only kind of disability that exists:
There are people with amputated limbs, those who could have gotten facial reconstruction surgeries due to accidents AFTER their Aadhaar card was made, or those whose fingerprints cannot be scanned due to manual work such as fishermen, construction workers, or those working with salt. Are these people being taken care of by the government?
Quite recently, Suvidhaa Infoserve, Axis Bank Ltd and eMudhra had breached the privacy of Aadhaar card and hacked it, later leading to a cyber crime complaint against them. They were charged with impersonation and unauthorized authentication, but the fact that this data was easily available to them does raise doubts. So, how will the government prevent the misuse of our critical information is still ambiguous.
The idea of privacy now seems foreign, alien and aligning concept. In fact, it is just the opposite of the Right to Information Act.
Digital identities of over a million citizens have been compromised by a programming error on a website maintained by the Jharkhand Directorate of Social Security.
The glitch has revealed the names, addresses, Aadhaar numbers and bank account details of the beneficiaries of Jharkhand’s old age pension scheme.
Jharkhand has over 1.6 million pensioners, 1.4 million of whom have seeded their bank accounts with their Aadhaar numbers to avail of direct bank transfers for their monthly pensions.
Their personal details are now freely available to anyone who logs onto the website, constituting a massive data breach at a time when the Supreme Court, cyber-security experts and opposition politicians have questioned a government policy to make Aadhaar mandatory to get benefits of a variety of government schemes and services.
When HT reporters logged onto the site, they could drill down to get transaction-level data on pension paid into scores of pension accounts.
The threat is real but as mentioned, the Aadhaar System is full of potential, we just need to better, if not the best. We have increased number of professionals in India who are big data experts and security experts in India, who when given the opportunity will achieve this.