Data Mining Mafia Threatens National Security And Citizens Rights
By Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties
Mankind’s Biggest Identification Database will Create Permanent Emergency Architecture
The Presidential candidate of Indian National Congress led United Progressive Alliance, Pranab Kumar Mukherjee owes an answer to the question: Will “online data base” of residents of India (inclusive of citizens) safeguard the sovereignty of the Republic? The biggest-ever database being attempted in the history of mankind merits a rigorous political debate. An autocratic social control technology regime is silently giving birth to a permanent emergency architecture.
In his 2009-10 Budget Speech as Finance Minister, Mukherjee had said, “The UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) will set up an online data base with identity and biometric details of Indian residents and provide enrolment and verification services across the country.” In an act of Himalayan blunder, h did not seek any “legislative framework‟. When he did through Union Ministry of Planning, there was an effort to turn Parliament into a rubber stamp; its proposal was rejected by the Parliamentary Committee on Finance. Revealing his callousness towards lack of the legal mandate, he continued to make budgetary allocations for UIDAI from 2009 till 2012.
Under the chapter, “Creating an appropriate legislative framework‟ the White Paper on Black Money prepared by Union Finance Ministry during is current tenure elaborates on the role of the Unique Identity (UID)-Aadhaar project. The relevant text of the White Paper at page 49 reads: “As announced by the Finance Minister in his Budget speech, enrolments into the Aadhaar system have crossed 20 crore and the Aadhaar numbers generated up to date 14 crore. Adequate funds have been allocated for completing another 40 crore enrolments starting from 1 April 2012. The Aadhaar platform will facilitate payments under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MG-NREGA); old age, widow and disability pensions; and scholarships to be made directly into beneficiary accounts in selected areas. This initiative will cut down corruption and the generation of black money in India.” It is ironical that Unique Identity (UID)-Aadhaar project is mentioned under the title “Creating an appropriate legislative framework‟ because its Centralized Identities Data Register (CIDR) is being prepared outside any appropriate legislative framework‟.
The biometric data based “20 crore enrollments‟ and 14 crore Aadhaar numbers generated so far are illegal. It is in contempt of Parliament. In any case even these figures do not appear to be reliable because there are several inconsistencies.
It is noteworthy that the Union Cabinet approved the scheme for creation of Union Home Ministry’s National Population Register (NPR) of usual residents of the country on March 19, 2010. Even before this approval the terms of reference of Planning Commission‟s notification to set up UIDAI for Centalized Identities Data Register (CIDR) dated January 28, 2009 referred to collation of NPR and UID data. Therefore, the reported conflict between Home Ministry and UIDAI appears managed for public consumption.
Both CIDR and NPR schemes are for unique identification that involves collection of demographic and biometric information from usual residents of India. After Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2012, now there is a proposal for a National Human DNA Profiling Bill, 2012 which is also about unique identification based on collection of biometric information like DNA. PSC had taken cognizance of the possibility of "manipulation of biometric information".
While use of biometric technology, an advanced technique for the identification of humans, based on their characteristics or traits is unfolding there is agency within India to. These traits can be face, fingerprint, iris, voice, signature, palm, vein, and DNA. DNA recognition and vein recognition are the latest and most advanced types of biometric authentication. Biometric technology is being deployed in the application areas like government, travel and immigration, banking and finance, and defense. Government applications cover voting, personal ID, license, building access, etc.; whereas travel and immigration use biometric authentication for border access control, immigration, detection of explosives at the airports, etc. Banking and finance sector use biometric authentication for account access, ATM security, etc. In two separate letters to the National Human Rights Commission and President of India, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) has underlined how Human DNA Profiling Bill, 2012 will lead to dangerous erosion of privacy and how black projects like CIDR and NPR are part of the black economy and part of the solution as suggested in the White Paper on Black Money. Both the letters are attached.
Newspapers and other news agencies have generally failed to note the implications of the recommendations of the PSC wherein it says, “The collection of biometric information and its linkage with personal information of individuals without amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955 as well as the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, appears to be beyond the scope of subordinate legislation, which needs to be examined in detail by Parliament.” Now that the opinion of the Attorney-General of India defending governmental action in regard to issuance of Planning Commission’s notification to set up UIDAI has rightly been rejected by the Government, logically, till such parent legislation is passed which mandates collection of biometric information by UIDAI and Home Ministry‟s Registrar General of NPR, the implementation of both CIDR and NPR must be put on hold.
PSC recorded the legal opinion saying, “Article 20 (3) of the Constitution provides protection against 23 compulsory extraction of personal information. Denying services, and rights, to persons because they are unwilling to part with the information in a manner that is more than likely to result in convergence and commodification of their personal information, surveillance, profiling, tagging and tracking is compulsory extraction that clearly reduces the constitutional rights of an ordinary citizen to less than that of an alleged offender.” Most media persons have ignored that the CIDR and NPR is being implemented in violation of the Constitution.
The Union Cabinet on June 7, 2012 decided that both the Union Home Ministry and the UIDAI will collect biometric data of 1.2 billion Indians. In January, 2012 the Cabinet Committee on UIDAI Related Matters set up on October 22, 2009 was reported to have resolved the issue of conflict and duplication of work between UID and NPR. The June 2012 cabinet meeting clearly shows that a section of media which is simply reproducing government’s version was misled into believing that conflict between Planning Commission’s UIDAI and Home Ministry’s NPR does not fester anymore.
A section of media is being briefed incorrectly by the interested parties in the matter of NPR and CIDR. It is being reported as truth that the NPR which would lead to a resident identity card and will culminate in a citizenship card based on biometric data has legal mandate to do so.
A section media has been acting like a stenographer of UIDAI which has been reporting with a blinkers on about how CIDR project is compiling Aadhaar seeks to provide unique identity numbers for access to government’s social welfare benefits to “residents‟ of the country like Dalai Lama and “certain other persons‟. This section of media does not realize that government‟s social welfare benefits are for citizens and not for the „residents‟ and residentship does not entitle people to access these benefits. Also till date media has not inquired about who these “certain other persons‟ are.
"The collection of photographs and biometrics has been facing hurdles at every step on account approach of the UIDAI, which, it seems, has failed to appreciate the core purpose of the National Population Register" Union Home Minister reportedly wrote in his letter to the Prime Minister in violation of Union Cabinet's decision "Despite clear orders from the cabinet, the UIDAI is objecting to the conduct of NPR camps in certain states and is also refusing to accept the biometric data of NPR for de-duplication and generation of Aadhaar number".
Under the influence of biometric technology companies, besides Planning Commission's UIDAI and Home Ministry, Department of Public Distribution System, Ministry of Rural Development, (MoRD), the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, Banks, Department of Social Welfare, Post Office, States’ Education Departments etc have started collecting biometric information without any legal mandate.
India is a federal structure and there is a clear distinction between the role of central and state governments but CIDR and NPR appear to be trying to converge sates‟ power and subordinating citizens rights and converting them into subjects.
In the meanwhile, in UK civil rights activists are protesting about the involvement of Lockheed Martin in the census of 2011. In a judicial review, lawyers are arguing that the Office for National Statistics' decision to grant a data processing contract to a UK subsidiary of the US defence contractor Lockheed Martin breaches right to privacy as guaranteed by the European convention on human rights. In India too, although Section 15 of the Census Act 1948 provides that census records 'will not be open to inspection or admissible as evidence', given the fact that Home Ministry’s Census Commissioner is also ex-officio Registrar General of India for NPR structurally betrays the confidentiality promised because NPR is open to „social vetting‟.
The PSC during briefing on the UID Bill raised inter-alia the issue of possibility of dovetailing the UID exercise with the census operation. In this regard, the Ministry of Planning in their written reply have, among other things, stated as follows, “….the UIDAI is adopting a multiple registrar approach and the Registrar General of India (RGI) will be one of the Registrars of the UIDAI. To synergize the two exercises, an Inter Ministerial Coordination Committee has been set up to minimize duplication. The UIDAI is making all efforts to synergize with National Population Register (NPR) exercise….”
To be Continued...
Picture: Nandan Nilekani Chairman of the new Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)