Category: India

Risk of identity theft for a billion people in India

5. January 2018

A billion people in India may be victims of identity theft. The Tribune newspaper uncovered a security breach in the country’s vast biometric database. The database contains personal data of almost every citizen in India. The biometric ID program called Aadhaar is a flagship policy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi against corruption.
The reporters of the newspaper were able to access names, email addresses, phone numbers and postal codes by typing in 12-digit unique identification numbers of people in the government’s database, after paying about 6,50 € ($8, 500 rupees).
The seller also sold software to print out unique identification cards, called Aadhaar cards that can be used to access various government services.
The seller had gained access to the database through former workers who were initially tasked with making the Aadhaar cards.
India’s Unique Identification Authority said in an official statement “Claims of bypassing or duping the Aadhaar enrollment system are totally unfounded. Aadhaar data is fully safe and secure and has robust, uncompromised security.” The governing Party officially tweeted that the report was fake news.

Indian government urges people to sign up to Aadhaar – the world’s largest biometric ID system – while the Supreme Court still needs to determine its legality

28. December 2017

As reported in August of this year, the Indian Supreme Court (SC) acknowledged that the right to privacy is “intrinsic to life and liberty” and is “inherently protected under the various fundamental freedoms enshrined under Part III of the Indian Constitution.”

In the same context, the SC had announced it will be hearing petitions on Aadhaar related matters (the term – meaning “foundation” – stands for a 12 digit unique-identity number supposedly issued to all Indian residents based on their biometric and demographic data) in November.

According to a Bloomberg report, India’a Prime Minister Narendra Modi is calling for an expansion of Aadhaar, even though its constitutionality is still to be debated. The SC has set January 10th as the beginning of the final hearings.

While officials say Aadhaar is saving the government billions of dollars by better targeting beneficiaries of subsidized food and cash transfers, critics point to unfair exclusions and data leaks. The latter on the one hand also fear that the database might lead India into becoming a state of surveillance. On the other hand, they are concerned about the high risk of major leaks, such as the ones reported by a news agency in India, the PTI (Press Trust of India): “Personal details of several Aadhaar users were made public on over 200 central and state government websites.”

Meanwhile, Medianama, a source of information and analysis on Digital and Telecom businesses in India, has launched a list of already compromised leaks and encourages people to point out any similar incidents.

Category: Data breach · General · India · Personal Data
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India’s Supreme Court rules that privacy is a fundamental right

29. August 2017

In the past few years, India’s government aimed to build up the world’s largest biometric database, named Aadhaar. So far, more than a billion citizens have been registered to the identity programme, whereby eye scans and fingerprints are collected. In order to make sure that all citizens registered to the Aadhaar database, the government restricted access to government services for those who are not part of the database.

Critics expressed concerns about the implications of possible future data breaches, jeopardising the privacy of more than a billion Indians. It was also feared that the Indian government could use the database for surveillance purposes.

Last week, a nine-member panel of India’s Supreme Court ruled that a right to privacy is a part of article 21 of the Constitution of India. This historic ruling could result in the abrogation of the mandatory enrolment to the Aadhaar database. Furthermore, any future laws aiming at restricting privacy, will now “have to be tested on the touchstone of article 21”. It remains to be seen whether the ruling will also have lasting effects on the civil liberties and the daily life of Indians.