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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    India and Identity Cards

    The scheme used to be know as UID or universal ID but got renamed to a more benign 'Aadhar' meaning support or foundation. There is precious little objective coverage about this scheme in the domestic press, most no better than infomercials, but every now & then a few informative articles appear. The masses on the whole aren't very informed about UID at all. Under the impression that it is legal when a bill establishing its legality has yet to be passed.

    Brits woke up to the foolishness of this idea, here's hoping India will as well.

    Aadhaar: on a platform of myths | The Hindu | July 17, 2011

    Aadhaar: on a platform of myths
    R. Ramakumar

    The Aadhaar project, just as its failed counterpart in the U.K., stands on a platform of myths. India needs a mass campaign to expose these myths.

    Two countries. Two pet projects of the respective Prime Ministers. Unmistakable parallels in the discourse. “The case for ID cards is a case not about liberty, but about the modern world,” wrote Tony Blair in November 2006, as he was mobilising support for his Identity Cards Bill, 2004. “Aadhaar…is symbolic of the new and modern India,” said Manmohan Singh in September 2010, as he distributed the first Aadhaar number in Nandurbar. “What we are trying to do with identity cards is make use of the modern technology,” said Mr. Blair. “Aadhaar project would use today's latest and modern technology,” said Dr. Singh. The similarities are endless.

    Mr. Blair's celebrated push for identity cards ended in a political disaster for Labour. The British people resisted the project for over five years. Finally, the Cameron government scrapped the Identity Cards Act in 2010, thus abolishing identity cards and plans for a National Identity Register. On the other hand, India is enthusiastically pushing the Aadhaar, or unique identity (UID), project. The UID project has been integrated with the Home Ministry's National Population Register (NPR). The “National Identification Authority of India Bill” has been tabled in Parliament. Globally, observers of identity policies are watching if India learns anything from the “modern” world.

    The experience with identity cards in the United Kingdom tells us that Mr. Blair's marketing of the scheme was from a platform of myths. First, he stated that enrolment for cards would be “voluntary”. Second, he argued that the card would reduce leakages from the National Health System and other entitlement programmes; David Blunkett even called it not an “identity card,” but an “entitlement card.” Third, Mr. Blair argued that the card would protect citizens from “terrorism” and “identity fraud.” For this, the biometric technology was projected as infallible.

    All these claims were questioned by scholarly and public opinion. A meticulous report from the London School of Economics examined each claim and rejected them (see “High-cost, High-risk,” Frontline, August 14, 2009). This report argued that the government was making the card compulsory across such a wide range of schemes that it would, de facto, become compulsory. It also argued that the card would not end identity fraud in entitlement schemes. The reason: biometrics was not a reliable method of de-duplication.

    The Indian discourse around Aadhaar is remarkably similar. Almost identical arguments are forwarded in support of the project to provide a population of over one billion people with UID numbers. I argue that Aadhaar, just as its failed counterpart in the U.K., is promoted from a platform of myths. Here, there is space for three big myths only.

    Myth 1: Aadhaar number is not mandatory.

    This is wrong; Aadhaar has stealthily been made mandatory. Aadhaar is explicitly linked to the preparation of the NPR. The Census of India website notes that “data collected in the NPR will be subjected to de-duplication by the UIDAI [Unique Identification Authority of India]. After de-duplication, the UIDAI will issue a UID Number. This UID Number will be part of the NPR and the NPR Cards will bear this UID Number.”

    The NPR is the creation of an amendment in 2003 to the Citizenship Act of 1955. As per Rule 3(3) in the Citizenship Rules of 2003, information on every citizen in the National Register of Indian Citizens should compulsorily have his/her “National Identity Number.” Again, Rule 7(3) states that “it shall be the responsibility of every Citizen to register once with the Local Registrar of Citizen Registration and to provide correct individual particulars.” Still further, Rule 17 states that “any violation of provisions of rules 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 14 shall be punishable with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.”

    The conclusion is simple: Aadhaar has been made compulsory, even before passing the Bill concerned in Parliament. Under the project's guise, the State is coercing individuals to part with personal information; this coercion comes with a threat of punishment.

    Myth 2: Aadhaar is just like the social security number (SSN) in the United States.

    There is a world of difference between the SSN and Aadhaar. The SSN was introduced in the U.S. in 1936 to facilitate provision of social security benefits. A defining feature of SSN is that it is circumscribed by the Privacy Act of 1974. This Act states that “it shall be unlawful for any…government agency to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual's refusal to disclose his social security account number.” Further, federal agencies have to provide notice to, and obtain consent from, individuals before disclosing their SSNs to third parties.

    The SSN was never conceived as an identity document. However, in the 2000s, SSN began to be used widely for proving one's identity at different delivery/access points. As a result, SSNs of individuals were exposed to a wide array of private players, which identity thieves used to access bank accounts, credit accounts, utilities records and other sources of personal information. In 2006, the Government Accountability Office noted that “over a 1-year period, nearly 10 million people — or 4.6 per cent of the adult U.S. population — discovered that they were victims of some form of identity theft, translating into estimated losses exceeding $50 billion.”

    Following public outcry, the President appointed a Task Force on Identity Theft in 2007. Acting on its report, the President notified a plan: “Combating Identity Theft: A Strategic Plan.” This plan directed all government offices to “eliminate unnecessary uses of SSNs” and reduction and, where possible, elimination of the need to use SSN to identify individuals. It's quite the contrary in India. According to Nandan Nilekani, Aadhaar number would become “ubiquitous”; he has even advised people to “tattoo it somewhere,” lest they forget it!

    Myth 3: Identity theft can be eliminated using biometrics.

    There is consensus among scientists and legal experts regarding the limitations of biometrics in proving identity. First, no accurate information exists on whether the errors of matching fingerprints are negligible or non-existent. A small percentage of users would always be either falsely matched or not matched at all against the database.

    Second, errors of matching would stand significantly amplified in countries like India. A report from 4G Identity Solutions, contracted by UIDAI for supply of biometric devices, notes that:

    “It is estimated that approximately five per cent of any population has unreadable fingerprints, either due to scars or aging or illegible prints. In the Indian environment, experience has shown that the failure to enrol is as high as 15 per cent due to the prevalence of a huge population dependent on manual labour.”

    A 15 per cent failure rate would mean the exclusion of over 200 million people. If fingerprint readers are installed at Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) work sites and ration shops, and employment or purchases made contingent on correct authentication, about 200 million persons would remain permanently excluded from accessing such schemes.

    The report of the UIDAI's “Biometrics Standards Committee” actually accepts these concerns as real. Its report notes that “fingerprint quality, the most important variable for determining de-duplication accuracy, has not been studied in depth in the Indian context.” However, this critical limitation of the technology has not prevented the government from leaping into the dark with this project, one whose cost would exceed Rs.50,000 crore or $11 billion.

    It is said that the greatest enemy of truth is not the lie, but the myth. A democratic government should not undertake a project of the magnitude of Aadhaar from a platform of myths. The lesson from the U.K. experience is that myths perpetrated by governments can be exposed through consistent public campaigns. India direly needs a mass campaign that would expose the myths behind the Aadhaar project.

    (R. Ramakumar is Associate Professor with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.)

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    In Memoriam/Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    It reminds me of the "papers" required by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union - be caught without them and go to jail - or worse...

    Skilled criminals will always find ways to evade the systems, but innocent civilians will always get caught up in mistakes - and often suffer terrible consequences.

    It has to be nearly perfect before it will help more than it hurts.
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    Liberté, Unité, Egalité Senior Contributor Tronic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USSWisconsin View Post
    It reminds me of the "papers" required by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union - be caught without them and go to jail - or worse...

    Skilled criminals will always find ways to evade the systems, but innocent civilians will always get caught up in mistakes - and often suffer terrible consequences.

    It has to be nearly perfect before it will help more than it hurts.
    You don't have to carry anything on you. Its a 12 digit personal ID number, which you can remember off the top of your head. Just as you would carry a driver's license for ID purposes, you carry an Aadhaar number. For anyone having gone through setting up bank accounts, insurance policies, passports or the like, the required paperwork to prove ID is painstakingly enormous. With centralized biometric data, Identity cards are a boon for all Indians. A good progress in security, aswell as convenience for the people.

    Also, it is not compulsory that you carry an Aadhaar number on you 24/7. It is a safety measure, you get arrested, your Aadhaar number can be pulled out of the central system. If you're an illegal foreigner in the country, you won't be in the database.
    Last edited by Tronic; 18 Jul 11, at 20:08.
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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tronic View Post
    You don't have to carry anything on you. Its a 12 digit personal ID number, which you can remember off the top of your head. Just as you would carry a driver's license for ID purposes, you carry an Aadhaar number. For anyone having gone through setting up bank accounts, insurance policies, passports or the like, the required paperwork to prove ID is painstakingly enormous. With centralized biometric data, Identity cards are a boon for all Indians. A good progress in security, aswell as convenience for the people.

    Also, it is not compulsory that you carry an Aadhaar number on you 24/7. It is a safety measure, you get arrested, your Aadhaar number can be pulled out of the central system. If you're an illegal foreigner in the country, you won't be in the database.
    I see the indian govt has done an excellent job on selling you what Aadhar is supposed to be. This is the general perception to a t

    UID is not like a SSN#, its a lot more involved. Why bother with UID in that case and just use PAN# instead. Ah but some ppl have numerous PAN# so thats not good enough.

    Would have thought that article would have explained away all these so called 'benefits', might have to post the authors 2009 article. It goes into more depth on some of these issues.

    As for illegals, i'd imagine they would be first in line to get a new UID card. We've no problems handing them voter registration cards. That's right illegal aliens can vote in India. So why not UID

    My question is what am i getting for $11 billion ? yet to find an answer to that.
    Last edited by Double Edge; 18 Jul 11, at 20:50.

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    In Memoriam/Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tronic View Post
    You don't have to carry anything on you. Its a 12 digit personal ID number, which you can remember off the top of your head. Just as you would carry a driver's license for ID purposes, you carry an Aadhaar number. For anyone having gone through setting up bank accounts, insurance policies, passports or the like, the required paperwork to prove ID is painstakingly enormous. With centralized biometric data, Identity cards are a boon for all Indians. A good progress in security, aswell as convenience for the people.

    Also, it is not compulsory that you carry an Aadhaar number on you 24/7. It is a safety measure, you get arrested, your Aadhaar number can be pulled out of the central system. If you're an illegal foreigner in the country, you won't be in the database.
    Glad to learn this - thank you
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    Liberté, Unité, Egalité Senior Contributor Tronic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    I see the indian govt has done an excellent job on selling you what Aadhar is supposed to be. This is the general perception to a t

    UID is not like a SSN#, its a lot more involved. Why bother with UID in that case and just use PAN# instead. Ah but some ppl have numerous PAN# so thats not good enough.

    Would have thought that article would have explained away all these so called 'benefits', might have to post the authors 2009 article. It goes into more depth on some of these issues.

    As for illegals, i'd imagine they would be first in line to get a new UID card. We've no problems handing them voter registration cards. That's right illegal aliens can vote in India. So why not UID

    My question is what am i getting for $11 billion ? yet to find an answer to that.
    DE, the article does not really bust the so called myths. I'll go through it.

    Myth 1: Aadhaar number is not mandatory.

    This is wrong; Aadhaar has stealthily been made mandatory. Aadhaar is explicitly linked to the preparation of the NPR. The Census of India website notes that “data collected in the NPR will be subjected to de-duplication by the UIDAI [Unique Identification Authority of India]. After de-duplication, the UIDAI will issue a UID Number. This UID Number will be part of the NPR and the NPR Cards will bear this UID Number.”

    The NPR is the creation of an amendment in 2003 to the Citizenship Act of 1955. As per Rule 3(3) in the Citizenship Rules of 2003, information on every citizen in the National Register of Indian Citizens should compulsorily have his/her “National Identity Number.” Again, Rule 7(3) states that “it shall be the responsibility of every Citizen to register once with the Local Registrar of Citizen Registration and to provide correct individual particulars.” Still further, Rule 17 states that “any violation of provisions of rules 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 14 shall be punishable with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.”

    The conclusion is simple: Aadhaar has been made compulsory, even before passing the Bill concerned in Parliament. Under the project's guise, the State is coercing individuals to part with personal information; this coercion comes with a threat of punishment.
    See how wittily worded this "myth" is. That "Aadhar is not mandatory". Well, that was never a myth. I believe that we all know that the whole point of Aadhar is that every Indian citizen shall have a unique Identification number, so to word it such that, "people believe that Aadhar is not mandatory" is a myth in itself.

    The truth is that Aadhar need not be carried with you 24/7, it is not compulsory to do so, only convenient. That is what is stated, not that Aadhar is not compulsory.


    Myth 2: Aadhaar is just like the social security number (SSN) in the United States.

    There is a world of difference between the SSN and Aadhaar. The SSN was introduced in the U.S. in 1936 to facilitate provision of social security benefits. A defining feature of SSN is that it is circumscribed by the Privacy Act of 1974. This Act states that “it shall be unlawful for any…government agency to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual's refusal to disclose his social security account number.” Further, federal agencies have to provide notice to, and obtain consent from, individuals before disclosing their SSNs to third parties.

    The SSN was never conceived as an identity document. However, in the 2000s, SSN began to be used widely for proving one's identity at different delivery/access points. As a result, SSNs of individuals were exposed to a wide array of private players, which identity thieves used to access bank accounts, credit accounts, utilities records and other sources of personal information. In 2006, the Government Accountability Office noted that “over a 1-year period, nearly 10 million people — or 4.6 per cent of the adult U.S. population — discovered that they were victims of some form of identity theft, translating into estimated losses exceeding $50 billion.”

    Following public outcry, the President appointed a Task Force on Identity Theft in 2007. Acting on its report, the President notified a plan: “Combating Identity Theft: A Strategic Plan.” This plan directed all government offices to “eliminate unnecessary uses of SSNs” and reduction and, where possible, elimination of the need to use SSN to identify individuals. It's quite the contrary in India. According to Nandan Nilekani, Aadhaar number would become “ubiquitous”; he has even advised people to “tattoo it somewhere,” lest they forget it!
    Ironical comparison. The author devotes a whole para to describe what the SSN is and its history, and even tells us why the Aadhar and SSN are vastly different systems, and should not be compared. But than, he goes ahead and compares them anyways, shifting SSN's downfalls over to the Aadhar.

    Comparing PAN with SSN however would be a more logical deduction. And you yourself pointed out why PAN in India cannot be transformed into a UID.


    Myth 3: Identity theft can be eliminated using biometrics.

    There is consensus among scientists and legal experts regarding the limitations of biometrics in proving identity. First, no accurate information exists on whether the errors of matching fingerprints are negligible or non-existent. A small percentage of users would always be either falsely matched or not matched at all against the database.

    Second, errors of matching would stand significantly amplified in countries like India. A report from 4G Identity Solutions, contracted by UIDAI for supply of biometric devices, notes that:
    “It is estimated that approximately five per cent of any population has unreadable fingerprints, either due to scars or aging or illegible prints. In the Indian environment, experience has shown that the failure to enrol is as high as 15 per cent due to the prevalence of a huge population dependent on manual labour.”
    A 15 per cent failure rate would mean the exclusion of over 200 million people. If fingerprint readers are installed at Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) work sites and ration shops, and employment or purchases made contingent on correct authentication, about 200 million persons would remain permanently excluded from accessing such schemes.

    The report of the UIDAI's “Biometrics Standards Committee” actually accepts these concerns as real. Its report notes that “fingerprint quality, the most important variable for determining de-duplication accuracy, has not been studied in depth in the Indian context.” However, this critical limitation of the technology has not prevented the government from leaping into the dark with this project, one whose cost would exceed Rs.50,000 crore or $11 billion.
    That has been a valid point from the start. BioEnable has taken up the project for biometrics for the Aadhar, and they claim they do have and use the best technologies in regards to fingerprint quality. Apart from that, the Aadhar is still yet one step up than any of the other systems for ID in place in India right now. Aadhar will only reduce identity theft in India, not increase it.
    Last edited by Tronic; 18 Jul 11, at 21:43.
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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tronic View Post
    See how wittily worded this "myth" is. That "Aadhar is not mandatory". Well, that was never a myth. I believe that we all know that the whole point of Aadhar is that every Indian citizen shall have a unique Identification number, so to word it such that, "people believe that Aadhar is not mandatory" is a myth in itself.

    The truth is that Aadhar need not be carried with you 24/7, it is not compulsory to do so, only convenient. That is what is stated, not that Aadhar is not compulsory.
    Nilekani is on record saying that Aadhar isn't compulsory. So whats with the doublespeak ?

    Of course he can't say its compulsory because there is no act of law as yet that establishes the legality of aadhar in the first place.

    This isn't about whether you carry the card or not, its about whether you will continiue to receive services you receive already if you don't have one. That's illegal atm, and won't stand a test in court so the best thing is to make sure it never gets there. Can't wait for the first PIL to be filed and then watch the fun.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tronic View Post
    Ironical comparison. The author devotes a whole para to describe what the SSN is and its history, and even tells us why the Aadhar and SSN are vastly different systems, and should not be compared. But than, he goes ahead and compares them anyways, shifting SSN's downfalls over to the Aadhar.

    Comparing PAN with SSN however would be a more logical deduction. And you yourself pointed out why PAN in India cannot be transformed into a UID.
    Oh, and how do Americans tackle the problem of one individual with more than one SSN# ?

    Penalties can be quite stiff if i remember. What's stopping us doing that with ppl who have more than one PAN #. Could that maybe save us $11 billion.

    SSN# is no where as invasive as aadhar will be so its a false comparison.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tronic View Post
    That has been a valid point from the start. BioEnable has taken up the project for biometrics for the Aadhar, and they claim they do have and use the best technologies in regards to fingerprint quality. Apart from that, the Aadhar is still yet one step up than any of the other systems for ID in place in India right now. Aadhar will only reduce identity theft in India, not increase it.
    Not if it cant distinguish between 15 million Indians it can't. That to me says dead in the water that is until technology can catch up.

    We've not even touched upon the privacy aspects that this scheme impinges upon , that too in a country that does not have the same data protection laws as the UK and they still killed the project.

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    Senior Contributor Doktor's Avatar
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    Can't India and UK follow the Estonian example? Or we talking something different?
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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Estonian card also works as a travel document, we still use passports here.

    There is no scope to use these cards in that fashion. They won't have a use abroad only domestic.

    Its just a tool for govt to track citizens. They want to tie as many things into it, to the point where you need that number to do things. What this means in the long run is it will become pervasive for everything, so if you want to know somebody's history you just use the number as a key in various databases and you have a complete piciture of what that citizen did. That's putting a lot of power into hands of functionaries that could abuse it easily. Now if there was legislation that stated explicitly that any abuse would result in death by firing squad that's one thing but we do not have any such laws yet

    If this was unacceptable to the Brits then i don't see why it should be acceptable to Indians.

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    Senior Contributor Doktor's Avatar
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    Estonians still need passports to travel abroad.

    Here we have what's called Unique Citizen Identification Number (free translation). It's used everywhere, form issuing copy of a birth certificate, up to paying in the bank. We have it over 50 years and it's outdated.
    It's not safe, since we use it for everything, so it's in various databases and it's nothing new, nor revolutionary. As you said it's a way the Government, their agencies, the banks and other institutions to track you easier.
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    Senior Contributor Doktor's Avatar
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    I don't get some things...

    Since when numbers carry biometric data? They say "All you need is to remember/tatoo the UID" then later they argue biometrics functionality and if it can be implemented in India, thus covering only fingerprints (the article)

    What about photos and other data on those BM chips?

    That article is so twisted. Is there any better debate/pov on this UID thing?
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    The people should track the government, not the other way around.
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    Quote Originally Posted by highsea View Post
    The people should track the government, not the other way around.
    I'd like to track my PM and it is impossible.

    I will send the Gov and parliament members letter asking all of them to write daily reports what they have done during the day.

    Then I'll move to an unknown address
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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doktor View Post
    I don't get some things...

    Since when numbers carry biometric data? They say "All you need is to remember/tatoo the UID" then later they argue biometrics functionality and if it can be implemented in India, thus covering only fingerprints (the article)

    What about photos and other data on those BM chips?

    That article is so twisted. Is there any better debate/pov on this UID thing?
    They are basing authentication on finger prints. An older article by the author might give more insight.

    High-cost, high-risk | Frontline Magazine | Aug. 01-14, 2009

    Quote Originally Posted by bigross86 View Post
    National ID cards could trade privacy for security | Columbia Missourian | July 31, 2009

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