Moneylife Foundation’s seminar on

MONEYLIFE DIGITAL TEAM | 12/01/2013 04:07 PM

Moneylife Foundation, UID, Aadhaar, event, UIDAI, government, poor, Right to Information, RTI

The Aadhaar project was supposed to eliminate corruption in welfare schemes and provide the poor with an identity. It is now, however, clearly spreading into areas that dangerously intrude into our lives and rights. Read on to find out why Col (retd) Matthew Thomas believes Aadhaar to be conceptually flawed, deceitfully promoted, dangerously structured and ignorantly applied

At the 148th seminar of Moneylife Foundation, Colonel (retd) Matthew Thomas, a former defence services officer and missile scientist turned civic activist, spoke on the evils of the Aadhar project. Through the seminar, he explained why Aadhaar is a dangerous tool that is in the hands of people who are unknown, urged participants to question why the project was for residents and not for citizens and questioned the purpose of a national identity card, even as developed nations are doing away with biometrics. The UK National ID system, for example, was scrapped in 2009 when it was called the “worst of government, leading to intrusive bullying and an assault on personal liberty”. In Australia, too, the Australia card was scrapped in 2006.
Col Thomas said that it is not he alone who finds the UID system pointless. He said that, in fact, when The National Identification Authority of India, (NIDAI) Bill 2010 was referred to the Parliament Standing Committee on Finance, the committee called it directionless, lacking clarity of purpose and raising serious concerns regarding national security.
He said that the project was conceptually flawed because whereas it was created with the aim of eliminating corruption in welfare schemes in the Public Distribution System. However, it is unclear how this will be done. It was hinted that it would authenticate the buyer/customer of the LPG cylinder, for example. But it was not mentioned when the authentication would be done.
Instead of improving transparency, it has now become an identity card for all residents that can seriously intrude into your life. Col Thomas believes the risk of intrusion comes mainly from UIDAI’s decision to grant contracts to dubious companies. One of UIDAI’s contractors, for example, is L1 ID Solutions, which was formed by merging two entities, one of which was under investigation by US Securities and Exchange Commission for certain offenses.
Furthermore, the organization has ties to international intelligence agencies. When Col Thomas filed an RTI to find out about the contracts signed with these companies, his request was rejected as a non-disclosure agreement had been signed. This despite the fact that the money used to pay the contractors was public funds!
Col Thomas also described how Aadhaar is being misused. He said that when his son-in-law went to make his Aadhaar card, he refused permission for his UID to be linked to his bank account. However, when he received the authentication card, he found out that it was. He asked what the need for introducing a third party (UID) in a clear transaction between a customer and a bank. The trouble with introducing a third party, he says, is that you don’t know who is in control of the system.
Toward the end of his talk, Colonel Thomas discussed the fallibility of fingerprinting. He said that even experts acknowledge that it is easy to create fake fingerprints and that fully developed scanners are unable to capture definite matches. With this, he ended his speech and invited Jude D’Souza to begin his workshop on the flaws in biometrics.
Mr D’Souza, an expert in design and development of microprocessor-based embedded electronic systems, showed how a simple Fevicol mould, created either in collaboration with another or under deceitful circumstances, can be used for authentication. The seminar ended with a lively question and answer session.