• stumble
  • youtube
  • linkedin

Archives for : UID

India – #Aadhaar Details on Google Search? Data of Thousands Kept Public

View photos

How many steps does it take to get access to thousands of Aadhaar numbers of citizens?

Step 1: Google ‘aadhar.jpg’

That’s it.

In a major breach of privacy and data protection, private entities of various kinds, educational, non-profit or commercial, that demand Aadhaar numbers as proof of identity, have kept their entire directories open and publicly searchable on Google. Scanned copies of Aadhaar cards are peppered in the search results that come up when one Googles “aadhar.jpg” or “aadhaar.jpg”.

Shocking Negligence

These images show up on Google because they have been stored in directories that have been kept public and searchable. A security lapse like this, breathtaking in its negligence, reflects a general lack of seriousness among institutions towards sensitive data of citizens as well as a failure to grasp the most basic security protocols.

So, why is Google throwing up images of Aadhaar cards?

The answer is simple. When an individual types in keywords to search for something, Google, based on its algorithm, crawls the web and returns relevant search results from the part of websites that are publicly accessible. Organisations need to keep only the relevant information publicly available on the client side of their website, not the complete database of sensitive information, such as sensitive user documents.

Apart from Aadhaar numbers, the list of openly available documents includes scanned copies PAN cards, voter IDs, passports, driver’s licence, and school leaving mark sheets. Most of the open directories that The Quint found through the search belonged to educational institutions. One of the open directories also contains scanned passport copies of foreign nationals.

View photos

A screenshot of Google images throwing up several scanned images Aadhaar cards leaked from open directories.

The Quint came across seven open directories in its scroll through the first fifty rows of photographs. Apart from educational institutions, other sources of directories of hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of people, include an NGO that runs an orphanage, an aviation academy and a trade conglomerate. All these institutions have collected Aadhaar and other identifying documents as part of its records but appear oblivious to the fact that the directory is stored directly on the server itself and not behind a login wall.Also Read: UP Hospital’s Server Gives Free Access to Patients’ Aadhaar Info

At a time when reports of Aadhaar leaks have been reported with increasing regularity, this appears to be the easiest among all the ways that the Aadhaar numbers of citizens have been leaked.

This serious lapse in providing the most elementary protection was detected a month after the Aadhaar-issuing body – UIDAI – explicitly directed people and organisations to never make Aadhaar numbers public. In a thread nine tweets long, UIDAI, firefighting TRAI Chairman RS Sharma’s controversial ‘Aadhaar Challenge’, asked citizens to “refrain from publicly putting their Aadhaar numbers on internet and social media”.

Related posts

Fake Aadhaar Centres Operated With Rubber-Stamp Thumbprints Busted In Manesar And Gurugram

A UIDAI official has confirmed that this method could also be used to get a phone SIM or access PDS rations.

Representational image.

Representational image.

Two separate raids, one in Gurugram and the other in Manesar, have busted fake Aadhaar centres that operated by using thumb impressions on gel stamps, reported Times of India.

In both cases, the people running the centres had rubber stamps with the thumbprints of people actually authorised to run enrolment centres, bypassing the security of the Aadhaar enrolment software.

Also, in both cases, the authorised operators were relatives of the people running the fake centres. The cyber cafe in Manesar which was being run as an Aadhaar centre had banners for Aadhaar enrolment on the outside, the report noted.

The operator from Gurugram, meanwhile, said that the rubber thumb stamps are easily available in Delhi, and being used in Gurugram.

“I procured the rubber thumb from Mathura even though it is easily available in Delhi. A few cafe owners are using these in Gurugram,” he said.

Rajesh Gupta, nodal officer of Aadhaar enrolment, told TOI that this method could also be used for biometric attendance, or fraud in schemes such as PDS, or to apply for a new phone SIM.

Besides this, there were also two raids on fake Aadhaar card businesses. One person was arrested in West Bengal for making fake Aadhaar cards, after a man from Bangladesh who had one of these was caught by the police, reported the Siliguri TimesHis interrogation led the police to the fake Aadhaar centre on Monday.

And in Andhra Pradesh, two persons were arrested for making fake Aadhaar cards and driving licences, The Hindu reported. One of them was working in a photocopying shop, and the duo were photoshopping photographs onto existing documents.

Related posts

From the Salon to the Studio- The Impact of Technology

An extract from Jalsa

Vidya Shah


Jalsa is a book on the journey of women performers in India from the salon to the studio. It gives insight into the beginning of the interface of technology and entertainment.

The following is an excerpt from the chapter  “The Impact of Technology” of the book.

The Impact of Technology

When recording technology was first brought to India in the early years of the twentieth century, it was welcomed with a similar admixture of fascination and distrust as was the telegraph a few decades ago. Some in the artiste fraternity were charmed by the magical prospects of this western novelty while others were suspicious of its ‘unworldly’ prowess.

Afraid of losing their singing talent many Gharanedars chose not to lend their voices to the records. Some also feared the vulgar publicizing of their artistic endeavours to sections they disapproved of. For instance, Ziauddin Khan, uncle of Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar did not commit to recording because he would not profane his art by making it available to “any common courtesan” who could afford to buy a record.

Those that accepted the technology had to mould their singing to the demands of this new medium. Perhaps the greatest challenge for the early recording artists was the provision of 3 minute rule. A recording disc could only carry 3 minutes of music. The limit imposed was rather unusual for the singers who were used to performing in courts and Mehfils where anything but time would have been a constraint. Practiced in the improvisation and spontaneity of the classical tradition, the pioneering artists soon found ways to bring the aura of Mehfils into the drawing rooms of the commonplace audience. In her recording of Raag Gandhari, Gauhar Jan, the first artist to record commercially, begins the rhythmic composition at a faster tempo, perhaps being over- conscious of the time – factor, but cleverly slows down to suit the composition and the time- frame. Zohra Bai Agrewali (1868 -1913) the fabulous Khayal singer became greatly admired among the artists and connoisseurs alike for her perfect renditions in the 3 minute format.

With the arrival of double sided 78 rpm discs many vocalists and instrumentalists further improvised to record the non- rhythmic alap on one side and the rhythmic part on the other. A convention that continued into the cassette culture towards the end of twentieth century.

The atmosphere of Mehfils was recreated in the studios as people were brought in to exclaim admirations during the recording. More importantly, as musical pieces turned into packaged commodities, the selection of genres became as much a matter of popular appeal as of the ease of adapting a genre to the 3 minute rule. The first half of the 20th century saw a series of semi- classical and light classical genres being marketed under Hindustani Classical titles and regional genres like KajriChaiti, and Thumri became a rage within the recording circles. It has been observed that the more traditional forms like Dhrupad and Dhamar made only a negligible portion of the recorded repertoire.

An interesting practice that was born out of the constraints of production was the singers having to announce their names at the end of recording. Since the records were initially sent to Hanover, Germany for pressing this ensured that the names of the artists were not mixed. This also addressed probably the problem of piracy. These announcements however disappeared when GTL opened its first factory in Sealdah, Kolkata. The locals working there called it the Baja Khana.

The early recording contraptions also put significant limitations on “who or what” was being recorded. Having to sing into the horn of the phonographs, the vocalists were bound to limit their natural head movements. For the instrumentalists though the ordeal was different it was as nonetheless as severe. Barring a few instruments like Shehnai or the clarinet, it was almost impossible to position the phonograph for recording a range of Hindustani instruments.

The early forties see a shift in the outlook of the artists towards recording. Being recorded began to be considered the most prestigious thing that could happen to a performer. By the 1940s and 1950s opportunities and openings to record for commercial companies and the radio were universally sought after, even though the format which recording studios demanded of musicians was strange and inhospitable. The physical placing of percussion and other accompaniment naturally gave precedence to the requirements of electronics rather than to the accustomed rapport between the musicians, which is the life of any performance. It was a daunting experience if not an ordeal for a singer to sit far away from his Tabla and Sarangi and still be able to warm up, as in a live concert. But this was one uncomfortable artistic situation most of them resigned themselves to in the hope of larger audiences and immortality. In any case, from being something new- fangled that was resisted on principle, recording became the new status symbol and introduced a shift in the traditional attitudes to classical music.

The gramophone transformed listening habits as it normalized the repetition of listening. The records became the new- found sources of inspirations for the next generation of musicians. Their first lessons came engraved on the grooves of the 78 rpm discs and the attendance of live performances followed. Listening and copying somebody’s style emerged as new form of education. Later both the composition and style of an artist were looked back from earlier recordings of the maestros of the Gharana or tradition they represented. As preservation became instated through gramophone records, the idea of ephemerality espoused earlier by the Mehfils was pushed to the front by the very technologies that would appear to have eliminated it. So, the live concerts once again became important because of their temporal experience and momentariness.


Vidya Shah is a singer, musician, social activist and writer.

This is an extract from Jalsa published by Tulika Books, 2016. Republis

Related posts

Mumbai – E-shopper loses ₹11k after sharing Aadhaar data

Sr Citizen Says Fraudster Had Info Of His Purchases On Fashion Site


A senior citizen who had e-shopped from a fashion portal last month did not think twice before parting with money when he got a call purportedly from a company representative with a tempting offer. He also gave away his Aadhaar details and OTP only to find out later that he had been duped of Rs 11,000. A cheating case has been registered at MIDC police station.

The sexagenarian is a Bandra resident. On Saturday, he was at his son’s office in Andheri when he got a call. “The caller said he was a representative of Jabong. He was aware of an Adidas shoe purchase that I had made from the e-commerce portal with details of the date of shopping and amount. I had no reason to not trust him. He then made an offer that if I made a fresh purchase of Rs 11,000 from the fashion portal, I’d get an expensive gift. I asked him to send me details. He texted me a list of five expensive products of which I could choose one gift,” the senior citizen said. He selected an iPhone7 from the portal and sent a screenshot of the product to the caller.

“I got a call again and was told to pay for my fresh purchase only through the digital wallet, PayTM. The caller said I would get a 40% cashback if I did so. I paid Rs 11,000 but there was no cashback. For an hour thereafter, the caller kept me on phone. My Aadhaar number was sought to send me the iPhone7. I shared it and also the OTP I got on phone,” the senior citizen said.

The phone calls wouldn’t cease until evening. “The caller wanted me to pay Rs 10,000 more as GST on the iPhone7. This time, I got in touch with the customer care on phone. But the executive said no such offer existed. When I asked how the conman procured details of my purchase on Jabong, the executive said their system might have been hacked,” the senior citizen said.

He complained to PayTM and demanded a refund. In an email, PayTM said the money transfer was approved as Aadhaar and OTP details were shared. The money had gone to an Allahabad Bank account in Bengal and could not be refunded.

Related posts

Delhi HC discovers #Aadhaar is not a proof of identity, recognises threat to individual and national security

HC shaken by Aadhaar tests leading to thefts

Abhinav Garg | TNN |

NEW DELHI: A “major loophole” that allowed misuse of Aadhaar authentication system to access LIC policies has been identified by Delhi high court as a cause of grave concern.

On Wednesday, a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao started a PIL on the issue, seeking the stand of the Centre, Delhi Police’s Cyber Cell, UIDAI, and others to swiftly plug the loophole.
The bench decided to go ahead with the PIL after a single judge first flagged the breach, where unsuspecting mobile customers were lured into giving their thumb impression on bio-metric machine repeatedly to generate fresh SIM cards. The mobile connections were then used to allegedly siphon off money from LIC policies.

Last week, Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva had referred the matter to be treated as one of public importance while noting that “this loophole can not only have disastrous consequences for the said individual, but also raises serious law and order issues.”
Justice Sachdeva came across the misuse of Aadhaar authentication while hearing a bail plea of a shopkeeper selling mobile phones and SIM cards. He had managed to distribute several connections on a single Aadhaar verification of customers. As per the police, accused Manish Bansal, also did Aadhaar verification and linkage with the SIM cards where the customer had to submit his documents and get the bio-metric scan done. On the pretext that the scan was not satisfactory, he would ask the customer to undergo second round of scan. This time, he would use his details to issue fresh connection, but distribute it to others for fraudulent purposes.

An alarmed court noted that “the modus operandi that has surfaced in this case highlights a major loophole in the system, where fresh mobile connections could be issued in the name of an unwary customer, without his knowledge and consent.”
The single judge decided to highlight the issue to the Chief Justice after the police informed him that there have been other similar cases of Aadhaar bio-metric misuse and lodged a case in Vasant Kunj police station last year.

The judge underlined that “this issue needs to be examined by the home ministry, ministry of electronics and information technology, Unique Identification Authority of India, Cyber Cell under the supervision of the special commissioner of police and the telecom companies.”

Related posts

India – You can delink your Aadhaar with your bank account

 Wishing you had never linked Aadhaar to your bank account, and wishing you could delink?

Many people linked their Aadhaar numbers to their bank account under coercion and fear of losing access to their financial assets.

However, for those now wondering how safe such linking, here is some hope – it is indeed possible to delink your Aadhaar and bank account! Download and complete this one-page form, and submit it to the manager at your bank branch. You could ensure you get SMS confirmation that Aadhaar has indeed been delinked!



Related posts

High Court upset with govt order on #Aadhaar link with biometric attendance

HC upset with govt order on Aadhar link with biometric attendance

Srinagar: Hearing a contempt petition, the J&K High Court on Friday directed the state Chief Secretary to file response on why an order has been issued directing employees to link their Aadhar cards with biometric attendance, when the court in an order dated September 11, 2017, had directed that Aadhar cards should not be linked with biometric attendance.

The court issued notice to Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam after a contempt petition in the case titled Syed Musaib versus Chief Secretary to J&K Govt was moved before the court today.


The petitioner, Syed Musaib, submitted before the court that the main objective of UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) was to collect biometric and demographic data of residents, store them in a centralised database, and issue a 12-digit unique identity number called Aadhar.
He further submitted that a December 2011 parliamentary standing committee on finance led by Yashwant Sinha had rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010, terming the project as “unethical and violative of Parliament’s prerogatives.”

The petitioner submitted that in 2013, a PIL filed by a former army officer had led the Supreme Court to direct the Government of India to clear its stance on the Aadhar project and had directed the government to widely publicise in print and electronic media that Aadhar was not mandatory for any welfare scheme.
A five-judge Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court had also reiterated on the point of “right to privacy” that Aadhar was a purely voluntary scheme and could not be made mandatory till the matter was finally decided by the court, the petitioner submitted.


He further stated that in 2016, when the J&K government issued an order to government employees, pensioners and beneficiaries of government schemes to get themselves compulsorily enrolled in Aadhar to be able to draw their entitlements, the court overturned the order. Subsequently, another government order was passed making Aadhar card necessary for biometric attendance but it was overturned again by the High Court in an order dated September 11, 2017, in which the court directed that biometric system can be installed in government offices but it should not be linked to Aadhar.


The petitioner submitted before the court that despite clear directions, officials had again issued an order directing employees to link their Aadhar cards with the biometric attendance system, thus being guilty of contempt of court.

Related posts

Edward Snowden expresses concern over Aadhaar system

Edward Snowden

 Edward Snowden during the video conference on Saturday.

From an undisclosed location, Edward Snowden came live amid gathering at media fest in Jaipur on Saturday. The US intelligence contractor turned whistleblower and freedom of press activist discussed on concern related to citizen monitoring programs of world governments, including Aadhaar of India.

“If the Aadhaar system has to work, there should be criminal penalties on agencies for disclosing personal details. There is seriously something wrong with this system,” said Snowden.

He has been crusading against the citizen monitoring activities of the US government and the same dangers are hunting him down. His session on “Being a Whistleblower” narrated more that he spoke. The organisers were unsure of his appearance till the last hour and when he did came online, it was just a white background from anonymous ‘safehouse’.

Despite the hardships, he seems to be in comfort with the situation. “I used to work for the government and now I work for the public,” he said. Snowden said that while the terrorists remain technologically updated, such government monitoring is often used for citizens. He had the audience deliberating on the public government relation. “When governments fear from the public, its liberty,” he said.

Unfortunately, it’s people who fear governments in most cases and thus there remains need for a more collective effort towards a better tomorrow. As for him, the trend of ‘world turning in Chinese market’ was a greater concern than being haunted by his own government.


Related posts

Reductionism in the digital universe #BookReview

Title:New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the FutureAuthor:James Bridle

Title:New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the FutureAuthor:James BridlePublisher:VersoPrice:$26.95

James Bridle on how complex technology darkens our life and culture, and the urgent need to shed digital fatalism

In 2016, when Nintendo’s Pokemon GO created a frenzy across the world, fans of the augmented reality (AR) game were up for a surprise in Russia. While playing the game — which basically means tracking down hidden Pokemons in real time and in real locations using AR technology on their smartphones — near Kremlin, many users found some functonality glitches on their devices,The Moscow Times reported. They found their GPS function compromised.

For starters, Pokemon GO uses Global Positioning System (GPS) to direct users to various locations where the funny comic characters would appear. Near Kremlin, many users found a mismatch between where the Pokemons appeared and the location marked on their devices. Technically, such a thing should not happen because GPS signals could not be tampered with. Or that was they, like many of us, had thought until then. And they were wrong.

Cyber security experts say what the gamers experienced in Kremlin was a process called GPS spoofing, giving enough evidence that Russian agencies were tampering with GPS by faking the signals. So, anyone would want to find a way to Kremlin using GPS would be virtually ‘relocated’ to Vnukovo Airport, which was 32 km away from the city centre. Many experts think this was done for defence purposes, to redirect incoming weapons targeting Kremlin using GPS. Instances such as GPS spoofing, where an advanced technology people believe is foolproof can be doctored and faked, reveal the “blind spots, structural dangers and engineered weaknesses” of computation in contemporary life, warns James Bridle in New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future, a brilliant, unparalleled work on the perils of modern technologies and how they obfuscate social realities.

A complex web

Bridle believes technology has made human life extremely complex today by creating layers and layers of processes and systems where humans are condemned to cohabit machine intelligence in ways they cannot comprehend.

As a result, we don’t necessarily realise where we need technology’s assistance and where we don’t. Even that ability is controlled by the systems and processes of technologies we use. “Our social lives are mediated through connectivity and algorithmic revision,” writes Bridle. He explains how the entire world “becomes a code/space” as smartphones becomes powerful personal computers and computation disappears into every device around us, from fridges to cars to fitness bands.

What happens then? This “ubiquity underscores our failure to understand” how computation impacts the “very ways in we think”. Bridle gives the example Wikipedia, which is a beacon among open internet projects. Currently, Wikipedia relies on an army of software agents – bots – to enforce and maintain correct formatting, build connections between articles, and moderate conflicts and incidences of vandalism. At the last survey, bots counted for 17 of the top 20 most prolific editors and collectively make about 16 per cent of all edits to Wikipedia. That’s a “concrete and measurable contribution to knowledge production by code itself,” notes Bridle.

What exactly is the danger here? Clearly, algorithms, which bear within themselves all the ugly biases and prejudices of their creators, are slowly and gradually interfering in our cultural spaces by contributing faster and in many cases better.

At the outset, there may not be a problem and we are free to think such technologies (bots here) are just augmenting our lives. Bridle disagrees: “Computation does not merely augment, frame, and shape culture; by operating beneath our everyday, casual awareness of it, it actually becomes culture.” In a way, software gibberish replaces healthy sociocultural discourses. This can have ramifications in spheres such as public policy, art, journalism, healthcare, sports, welfare distribution and such.

Why do such things happen? This happens largely because of a purely functional understanding of technology. Bridle explains, enchantingly, the dangerous fallout of it, which he calls “computational thinking”, which is the belief that any problem can be solved by the application of computation. “Whatever the practical or social problem we face, there is an app for it,” Bridle mocks. This is some kind of a “solutionism”, which essentially means technology can find a fix to problems. As Evgeny Morozov explains in his witty, insightful 2013 work To Save Everything Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, this approach is inherently faulty because it underestimates and masks that fact that our imperfections make us human.

Bridle agrees. He says computational thinking forces its apostles (businessmen, policymakers and such) to think that it is impossible to think or articulate the world in terms that are not computable. Soon, the thought reverses in an obscene fashion.

They think that to be solved, all problems should be computable. That which is not computable or not digitally mappable or measurable or code-able is runs the risk of losing a solution or even falling out of the radar of governance, business and culture.

Digital fatalism

Bridle warns that computational thinking is predominant in the world today, driving the worst trends in our societies and interactions, and must be opposed by a “real systemic literacy”. Technology cannot be left to the whims and fancies of those who keep it complex. It should be democratised. Systemic literacy is the thinking that deals with a world that is not computable, Bridle explains, while admitting that it is “irrevocably shaped and informed by computation”.

But that’s not an easy job, in a world where data companies control pretty much everything an individual does and force their users to ignore their fallibilities and become what this reviewer would call digital fatalists, where they become extremely submissive before their digital service providers and accept their propaganda and conclude that everything that happens is inevitable (in a way predetermined by a Super Code) and we have to reprogramme our lives to get them in synch with the digital realities.

This is not some soft-coded paranoia. This is a reality we face every day. When governments ask us to have digitally traceable (and controllable) unique identities and then make such computable citizenship or identity documents mandatory for availing services that do not necessarily require such strict screening by any measure, and when we succumb to such demands without a whimper. We even praise such efforts without really understanding the complexity of such systems or their hidden abilities to be manipulated, we become submissive subjects of computational thinking.

Bridle asks us to stand up and say our existence is be understandable only through computation. We are more than the data we are. Technologies need to be audited (Morozov has argued for algorithmic auditors) and updated to reflect human values such as justice, ethics and inclusiveness. Equally important is to know that systems are fallible and in a world where even the GPS can be faked and choreographed, overreliance on technologies can be dangerous.

Bridle’s work is a great handbook for those who want to probe more on this. He speaks with the calmness of a prophet and the alertness and passion of an evangelist.

Related posts

These digital IDs have cost people their privacy — and their lives #Aadhaar

A man’s retina is scanned as he enrolls in Aadhaar, India’s national identification system, in Kolkata, India. (Bikas Das/AP)
August 9 at 1:45 PM

Reetika Khera is a development economist.

AHMEDABAD, India — Until recently, India’s national identification system, Aadhaar, was heralded both nationally and internationally as a game changer. Headlines in India routinely described it as such. And in a 2011 profile of its founder, Nandan Nilekani, The New Yorker detailed his mission to use the technology — which involves biometric data and the provision of a unique 12-digit number — to fix corruption and “bring about a change in the relationship between the state and the poor.”

But as my colleagues and I discovered, much of Aadhaar’s branding as a transformational solution to India’s welfare problems relied on incorrect data. Gradually, beginning in 2016, even those who helped build consensus for the project among India’s elite reportedly began to recognize its dangers. Today, India is embroiled in “Aadhaargate,” as it has become clear that Aadhaar constitutes one of the most brazen breaches of the right to privacy and the right to live initiated by the government of a democratic country.

In our increasingly digitized lives, sensitive personal information is available in various data silos: travel, banking, insurance, health records, education, social security, mobile phones and so on. Data mining businesses use this information to profile us and facilitate targeted advertising, for example. But an important safeguard of our privacy is that each of these data silos remains unconnected. This prevents companies from seeing an individual’s complete profile.

In India, both the government and businesses are pushing people to submit their unique number for nearly every aspect of their lives — to receive welfare benefits such as pension payments, to file taxes and register marriages, as well as to access mobile phone services and bank accounts. This turns Aadhaar into a dangerous bridge between these previously isolated silos. With each new data silo that gets linked, an important protection against 360-degree profiling gets weakened, leaving Indians vulnerable to data mining and identity theft.

In fact, there have been over one hundred reported incidents of Aadhaar-related fraud already. Forged Aadhaar cards were allegedly used to open bank accounts and take out loans. In some cases, Aadhaar-linked mobile payment apps were used to steal money. Aadhaar has become a textbook case of the damage that can be done when bad technology falls into the wrong hands.

In 2012, Indians began approaching the courts to protect their privacy rights. During the final hearings in early 2018, India’s Supreme Court granted temporary reprieve from the compulsory linking of Aadhaar for basic services. But the government appears to be implementing the directive only half-heartedly. Both the state and businesses alike continue to push residents to submit Aadhaar numbers for many services. And because Aadhaar numbers are required for obtaining life-sustaining welfare, poorer residents have no choice but to hand over their Aadhaar numbers to the state.

Aadhaar not only violates Indians’ fundamental right to privacy, it also violates their right to live. Since the system breaks down the various data silos and funnels the biometric and demographic data of over a billion people into one centralized database, this bulky mechanism creates numerous opportunities for error — some of them deadly. Over the past year or so, at least 15 deaths were reported after people were denied basic resources when their identities could not be verified due to Aadhaar system errors. Seven occurred because people were denied subsidized grain (a legal entitlement under the National Food Security Act of 2013) on account of Aadhaar-related glitches.

Last October, a man reportedly died of starvation in Jharkhand because thumbprint authentication failed for family members who went to purchase subsidized rations. In the previous month, Santoshi Kumari, an 11-year-old girl, also starved to death because her family’s ration card was canceled when they missed the deadline for linking their ration cards with their Aadhaar numbers. And in December, a woman and an 11-month-old infant were refused treatment at hospitals due to lack of an Aadhaar card and subsequently died.

Indians gather at an assembly in New Delhi to discuss how authentication problems with the  biometric ID system are preventing them from getting food rations. March 15, 2018. (Vidhi Doshi/The Washington Post)

Technical glitches in integrating Aadhaar with India’s banking system is also wreaking havoc with welfare payments to its most vulnerable citizens. Aadhaar servers return error codes that few people are able to decipher, let alone fix. Wage payments from a national rural employment guarantee scheme are often delayed or go “missing.” The list goes on.

India’s inefficient, unsecured centralized data system offers a cautionary tale for the rest of the world. Electronic records for citizens can, in theory, improve public services and reduce administrative costs. But centralized electronic records do so at the cost of its citizens’ basic rights.

Smart cards are a better alternative. Smart cards contain a microchip that securely stores needed information about a person without requiring biometrics. Rather, the card is inserted into a reader, which accesses the information stored on the microchip but does not transfer the files off the card and does not require the Internet. It can thus avoid, on several levels, the many failures of Aadhaar authentication.

The Aadhaar project, even before its ambitions have been fully realized, has caused deaths, data breaches, banking fraud and hardship. A project that is increasingly violating Indians’ right to life and privacy must be dismantled.

Related posts