Sunday, April 2, 2017

Aadhaar uses fingerprints, linked to bank accounts: How safe is your unique identity?

Since every instance of use of Aadhaar for authentication or for financial transactions leaves behind logs in the Unique Identification Authority of India’s (UIDAI) databases, the government can potentially have very detailed information about everything from the your medical purchases to your use of video-chatting software. The space for digital identities as divorced from legal identities gets removed. Clearly, Aadhaar has immense potential for profiling and surveillance. Our only defence: law that is weak at best and non-existent at worst.

The Aadhaar Act and Rules don’t limit the information that can be gathered from you by the enrolling agency; it doesn’t limit how Aadhaar can be used by third parties (a process called ‘seeding’) if they haven’t gathered their data from UIDAI; it doesn’t require your consent before third parties use your Aadhaar number to collate records about you (eg, a drug manufacturer buying data from various pharmacies, and creating profiles using Aadhaar).

It even allows your biometrics to be shared if it is “in the interest of national security”. The law offers provisions for UIDAI to file cases (eg, for multiple enrollments), but it doesn’t allow citizens to file a case against private parties or the government for misuse of Aadhaar or identity fraud, or data breach.
It is also clear that the government opposes any privacy-related improvements to the law. After debating the Aadhaar Bill in March 2016, the Rajya Sabha passed an amendment by MP Jairam Ramesh that allowed people to opt out of Aadhaar, and withdraw their consent to UIDAI storing their data, if they had other means of proving their identity (thus allowing Aadhaar to remain an enabler)...