Letter to Hon'ble President on Dr Ashok Khemka’s views on biometrics collected by UIDAI, the RTI reply & how UID/Aadhaar promotes casteism
Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL)
Shri Ram Nath Kovind
Hon’ble President of India
New Delhi- 110001
Through Secretary to the President
Date: August 4, 2017
Subject- Dr Ashok Khemka’s views on biometrics, RTI reply and how Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of 12-digit biometric data based Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar Numbers of Indian residents promotes casteism
Respected Rashtrapati Jee,
Greetings from Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL)!
With reference to our letter dated August 1, 2017, this is to inform you that while response from you is eagerly awaited, responding to the letter of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) on the subject of “National security and integrity under threat from CIDR of UID/Aadhaar Numbers of Indian residents” to you, Dr Ashok Khemka, a noted civil servant of impeccable integrity shared his insight and the reply to his RTI application saying, “Biometrics collected (by Unique Identification Authority of India[UIDAI]) is of little utility in de-duplication” dwelling on 12 digit biometric Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar number project. On August 3, 2017, Dr Khemka informed, “I had made an RTI application to UIDAI in April-17. Please go through my RTI application, reply of CPIO and order of first appellate authority.”
Dr Khemka observed:
“1.There are non-residents and non-citizens in the database. 2. The procedure adopted to de-duplicate identities was not disclosed to me. The de-duplication is primarily based on demographics data. The theoretical error rate (sum of false positive and false negative) in world's best algorithms is around 0.5%. 3. When the answer provided by the CPIO to query no. 6 was challenged, the first appellate authority did not divulge the details on grounds of security.”
He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in 1988 with a B.Tech degree in Computer Science Engineering and followed it up with a Ph.D in Computer Science from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. Khemka has served 46 departments and is currently Director General of Archives & Archaeology Department in Haryana state.
Dr Khemka’s RTI application and reply is attached for your perusal and consideration.
We submit that it must be recalled that referring to the incident of surveillance of his mobile phones, in an article titled My Call Detail Records and A Citizen’s Right to Privacy published in Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu & English (Source: http://www.bjp.org), Shri Arun Jaitley as Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha wrote, “Firstly, every citizen in India has a right to privacy. His right to pirivacy is an inherent aspect of his personal liberty. Interference in the right to privacy is an interference in his personal liberty by a process which is not fair, just or reasonable. A person’s Call Detail Records can throw up details of several transactions. In the case of an average citizen it can reflect on his relationships. In the case of a professional or a business person it can reflect on his financial transactions. In the case of a journalist it can reveal the identity of his sources. In the case of a politician it can reveal the identity of the person with whom he has regular access. Every person has ‘a right to be left alone’.”
Shri Jaitley added,
“In a liberal society there is no place for those who peep into the private affairs of individuals. No one has a right to know who another communicates with him. The nature of communication, the identity of persons being communicated with and frequency of communications would be a serious breach of privacy….This incident throws up another legitimate fear. We are now entering the era of the Adhaar number. The Government has recently made the existence of the Adhaar number as a condition precedent for undertaking several activities; from registering marriages to execution of property documents. Will those who encroach upon the affairs of others be able to get access to bank accounts and other important details by breaking into the system? If this ever becomes possible the consequences would be far messier.”
Revealing how power clouds human intelligence, Shri Jaitley and his ministerial colleagues do not comprehend messier consequences of breach of privacy anymore.
We submit that on 8th April, 2014, Shri Narendra Modi tweeted, "On Aadhaar, neither the Team that I met nor PM could answer my Qs (questions) on security threat it can pose. There is no vision, only political gimmick" in the aftermath of orders of Supreme Court and Punjab & Haryana High Court, concerns raised by National Human Rights Commission.
But the influence of transnational powers has become quite evident from the U turn by both Shri Jaitley and Shri Modi with regard to biometric aadhaar number after 21st May, 2014 when BJP led coalition became the ruling party at the centre.
We submit that considerations other than truth have given birth to Shri Modi government’s faith in 12 digit biometric UID/Aadhaar number. The issuance of more than 100 crore UID/Aadhaar numbers does not make it scientific.
We submit that the entire government machinery is hiding the fact that fundamentally UID is not a proof of identity, it is an identifier contained in the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of UID numbers. Aadhaar is the brand name of UID Number. Admittedly, government’s Paper on Privacy Bill states, “Data privacy and the need to protect personal information is almost never a concern when data is stored in a decentralized manner. Data that is maintained in silos is largely useless outside that silo and consequently has a low likelihood of causing any damage. However, all this is likely to change with the implementation of the UID Project. One of the inevitable consequences of the UID Project will be that the UID Number will unify multiple databases. As more and more agencies of the government sign on to the UID Project, the UID Number will become the common thread that links all those databases together. Over time, private enterprise could also adopt the UID Number as an identifier for the purposes of the delivery of their services or even for enrolment as a customer.”
This paper prophetically infers that “Once this happens, the separation of data that currently exists between multiple databases will vanish.” This poses a threat to the identity of citizens and the idea of residents of the state as private persons will be forever abandoned. Government is feigning ignorance about these concerns in the Supreme Court. Following the footprint of Pakistan, in October 2014, the Prime Ministers’ Office agreed in principle to make biometric aadhaar mandatory for getting new mobile connection. It has been made mandatory for railway e-tickets and Banking Correspondents as well.
It is noteworthy that biometrics “means the technologies that measure and analyse human body characteristics, such as 'fingerprints', 'eye retinas and irises', 'voice patterns', "facial patterns', 'hand measurements' and 'DNA' for authentication purposes” as per Information Technology (Reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information) Rules, 2011 under section 87 read with section 43A of Information Technology Act, 2000.
We submit that it may be recalled that Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister had distributed Unique Identification (UID)/ Aadhaar numbers among the villagers of Tembhali village in Nandurbar District of Maharashtra on 29th September 2010. “The Aadhaar number will ease these difficulties in identification, by providing a nationally valid and verifiable single source of identity proof. The UIDAI will ensure the uniqueness of the Aadhaar numbers through the use of biometric attributes (Finger Prints and Iris) which will be linked to the number”.
It has now come to light as per a RTI reply of April 2015 that out of 83.5 crore aadhaar numbers issued so far, only 2.19 lakh i.e. 0.03 % comprised of them who did not have a pre-existing ID proof. It shows how Indians were taken for a ride.
We submit that even the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, of colonial vintage, reads: “The object of this bill is to provide legal authority for taking measurements, finger impressions, footprints and photographs of persons convicted of, or arrested in connection with, certain offences.” According to the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, at the time of the acquittal of the prisoner, his biometric data is required to be destroyed. Since 1857, fingerprint identification methods have been used by police agencies in India and around the world to identify suspected rebels, political dissidents and criminals. The method is unfolding to indiscriminately profile citizens in general to identify them. The UID/aadhaar project, however, stores the biometric data forever. This makes present and future citizens worse than prisoners.
We submit that Safai Karamchari Andolan leader and a Dalit activist, Bezwada Wilson who was one of those concerned eminent citizens who sought issued a signed statement seeking stoppage of the UID/Aadhaar project said, "This project wants to fix our identities through time. Even after that we are dead. The information held about us will be fixed to us by the UID number. Changing an identity will become impossible. We are working for the eradication of the practice of manual scavenging, for rehabilitation of those who have been engaged in manual scavenging, and then leaving behind that tag of manual scavenger. How can we accept a system that does not allow us to shed that identity and move on? How can a number that links up databases be good for us?"
In view of the above, we infer that UID/Aadhaar is a Black project and reiterate our demand that biometric profiling based UID/Aadhaar "should be halted before it goes any further”.
Thanking you in anticipation.
Dr Gopal Krishna
Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL)*
*CFCL had appeared before the Parliamentary Standing on Finance that examined and trashed the Aadhaar Bill, 2010. CFCL has authored over hundred articles on the subject of Big Data and biometric-digital profiling based identification and surveillance technologies.