mfioretti: india* + biometrics*

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  1. A centralised database, dual use as identifier and authenticator, and lack of sound legal framework are its main weaknesses.
    https://scroll.in/article/833230/expl...-of-its-design-and-the-way-it-is-used
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-09)
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  2. The UIDAI goes on about how biometrics are safe and out of reach. The truth is, biometrics are collapsing all round. The figures for biometric failure have been staggering. In Rajasthan, in the PDS, exclusion because of fingerprint failure has been close to 36 per cent — which means not even one person from 36 per cent households are able to authenticate using their fingerprints. Jharkhand has witnessed deaths because the poorest have had difficulty linking their UID number with their ration card. Documents in the UIDAI archive from between 2009 and 2012 show that biometrics was still in an experimental phase. That biometrics are not working as hoped is made evident in the Watal Committee report on digital transactions, in December 2016. At pp. 123-124, the committee says that biometric authentication requires the availability of internet and high-quality machines capable of capturing biometric details, making it contingent on these working. So, the committee asks that for digital transactions, the “OTP sent on registered mobile number of Aadhaar holder” be allowed, thereby downgrading biometrics.

    Digital payments are in the business interest; not PDS. So, while fingerprints cause huge problems to the poor, the business interest shifts to other means because biometrics are not dependable.

    The mantra has, in fact, been JAM — Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, mobile — three numbers that make up identity. It was in 2010 that Nandan Nilekani said to a reporter: “The slogan of “bijli, sadak, paani” is passé; ‘virtual things’ like UID number, bank account and mobile phone are the in-thing.” That is the imagination that is driving the project today. It is these three numbers that are being exposed in the breaches. Then, to say that all is well is clearly not quite the truth.

    The project is putting people, and the nation, at risk. Those in court challenging the project have been demanding that the project be scrapped — not just the UIDAI, but the project. The breaches explain why what they are asking makes sense.
    http://indianexpress.com/article/opin...-aadhaar-leak-aadhaar-details-5013305
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-07)
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  3. Unlike the Passport Officer, the RTO, the Electoral Officer, the CEO of UIDAI does not take any legal liability to certify the number as a proof of anyone’s identity, address or existence. Furthermore no one has verified or audited the database to establish how many of the billion numbers that are linked to data submitted by the outsourced parties are real individuals.

    The resulting Aadhaar database is the database being used to “purify”, as described by Ajay Bhushan Pandey the CEO of UIDAI, all databases that are seeded with Aadhaar. The seeding of other databases with the Aadhaar number is also unlike any other identification document. This seeding threatens to exclude the genuine and include the fake into other existing databases by seeding Aadhaar to other databases. The case of over 13,000 fake employees in Satyam’s who got salaries every month for years before being exposed is still fresh in India.

    As the government embarks to link the entire Consolidated Fund of India’s receipts and expenditure to this database, is it not reasonable to establish some CAG certificate on the existence of every person in this database?

    Mr. Nilekani has often highlighted the use of biometric to authenticate who you are as the core strength of the Aadhaar database. What he fails to state is that even if biometric could uniquely establish your identity uniquely throughout your life, which it cannot, its use for authentication is absurd.

    Once stolen, your biometric can be used, in a multiple of ways differing in simplicity and ease, by the thief, to perpetuate crimes that will be attributed to you and may be difficult, if not impossible, for you to deny.

    It is precisely this difference between the enrolment and use models of the Aadhaar in comparison with any other ID are a threat to you as well as the nation.
    https://tech.economictimes.indiatimes...ts/how-does-aadhaar-threaten-you/2277
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  4. the technology is colliding with the rickety reality of India, where many people live off the grid or have fingerprints compromised by manual labor or age.

    Panna Singh, a 55-year-old day laborer in the northwestern state of Rajasthan who breaks stones used to build walls, says the machine recognized his scuffed-up fingerprints only a couple of times.

    “I’ve come twice today,” he said at a ration shop in the village of Devdungri. “That’s a full day of work, gone.”

    Iris scans are meant to resolve situations where fingerprints don’t work, but shops don’t yet have iris scanners.
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/snags-mu...ut-1484237128?mod=rss_asia_whats_news
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  5. In Ghagaon, where a women’s cooperative runs the fair price shop, the internet has not worked even once. “We have to stand on the wall, or go near the pond, and ask everyone to come there to look for signal on the point of sale device,” said Mongra Sidar, a Gond Adivasi. “Or, we try inside the ration shop, then one person has to climb the chabootra elevated platform » , while another person stands on the ground to note down the details in the notebook.”

    In Raipur, officials said one lakh out of three lakh transactions using fingerprint authentication did not go through – a failure rate as high as 30%. They attributed the failures primarily to network connectivity problems and skin abrasions on fingers.
    Photographs as backup

    With fingerprint authentication failing for even genuine card holders who have been verified by local authorities, Chhattisgarh has come with an innovation: ration shop owners have been asked to take photographs of such people before giving them food rations.

    This photograph is stored in the government’s server. “It will serve as deterrent to ration dealers that even if there is a complaint six months later, the government can check if grains were given to the right beneficiaries,”

    “Earlier, we sent one boy on the bicycle to lift the rations for three households,” lamented Tapaswani Yadav, a middle-aged woman. “Now, it is a waste of time for everyone. Many elderly persons cannot walk, it is difficult for a few to even sit astride a motorcycle.”

    She added: “The machine is so slow, sometimes people reach the ration shop in the morning and return when the day is over.”

    Five technologies need to work together for biometric authentication to be successful – the point of sale device, internet connectivity, biometrics, the National Informatics Centre server, and the Unique Identity Authority of India servers. Invariably, one of the five fails.

    Shyamlal Dansena, the ration dealer in Dilari panchayat in Raigarh, said fingerprint authentication failed for 20% of the ration card holders on an average. But in October, he had to give grains to all 386 ration card holders after taking their photographs since the Samsung tablet purchased by the panchayat for enabling the Aadhaar-based transactions had stopped functioning.

    Dansena was preparing to travel 20 kilometers to Raigarh to get the tablet repaired. “The food officer said we can give November month’s grains only after the software is loaded again,” he said.
    http://scroll.in/article/822764/chhat...ar-when-fingerprints-fail-take-photos
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  6. Aadhaar reflects and reproduces power imbalances and inequalities. Information asymmetries result in the data subject becoming a data object, to be manipulated, misrepresented and policed at will.

    Snowden: “Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

    Snowden’s demolition of the argument doesn’t mean our work here is done. There are many other tropes that my (now renamed) Society for the Rejection of Culturally Relativist Excuses could tackle. Those that insist Indians are not private. That privacy is a western liberal construct that has no place whatsoever in Indian culture. That acknowledging privacy interests will stall development. This makes it particularly hard to advance claims of privacy, autonomy and liberty in the context of large e-governance and identity projects like Aadhaar: they earn one the labels of elitist, anti-progress, Luddite, paranoid and, my personal favourite, privacy fascist.
    http://scroll.in/article/748043/aadha...n-its-the-only-way-to-secure-equality
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  7. One of the key reasons to kick off the Aadhaar-based identification system was to biometrically identify illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries. The irony is, now the Bangladesh government - a significant chunk of illegal immigrants in India are from Bangladesh - wants to study the model and replicate the system in the country. A team from Bangladesh is expected to visit India soon to meet officials from the National Population Register and the Unique Identification Authority of India, the nodal agency that issues Aadhaar cards. Another irony is that the two agencies have been at loggerheads over, among other things, the collection of biometric data and proof of identity.
    http://www.business-standard.com/arti...dhaar-the-paradox-115040201046_1.html
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2015-04-07)
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  8. A bench of Justices J Chelameswar, SA Bobde and C Nagappan reiterated its earlier order of September 23, 2013, which had asked authorities to desist from linking social benefits with Aadhaar cards. The bench is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the legality of what they say is an intrusive biometric system of identification run by private operators.

    The top court had acted on fears expressed by activists that a large number of people would be excluded from the purview of state-conferred social security benefits such as unemployment allowances, the public distribution system (PDS), widows' pensions etc.
    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/n...tells-centre/articleshow/46589577.cms
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2015-03-17)
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  9. UID, popularly known as Aadhaar, was conceptualised as a one stop solution as ID and address proof of the citizens of India. It was implemented to make programmes like the Public Distribution System efficient and ensure that benefits sent by the Government reach the right person.

    Aadhaar, despite being an important reform and a unique idea, was executed badly by the UPA. Over Rs 3,500 crore have been spent so far in the scheme which has already enrolled about 63 crore people. But it proved to be of no use to the people. The Congress-led UPA instead tried to use the crucial information for its personal gains during election by distributing money and enroll illegal immigrants to get India’s citizenship, who’ll ultimately vote for the Congress for its benevolence.

    During his campaign as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi slammed the Congress-led UPA Government over the Aadhaar card project, questioning the deployment of massive funds for it, virtually smelling corruption.

    A previous NitiCentral report titled ‘Nilekani’s Aadhaar a danger to our privacy’, narrated how on March 10, 2014, the Mumbai Police busted a fake Aadhaar card and voter identity card racket in Byculla, which they believe is part of a much larger racket in creation of fake identities. Three persons were arrested for forgery of official records and their equipment, including iris and fingerprint scanners were seized. Among the fake election cards seized, at least three had different names but a similar number (ZHS 4001377).

    Instead of providing solutions, the UPA, due to poor planning, opened a can of worms. People might end up losing their privacy as crucial information (e.g. biometric data) is shared with foreign-based private operators, which could be misused by intelligence agencies to fulfil their nefarious intentions.

    Since all of the biometric data is being shared online, which is prone to hackers and snoops, with private operators, privacy of millions has been put at risk. Most of the companies working for UID are US-based and several of them reportedly had or are working for its intelligence agencies like CIA.
    http://www.niticentral.com/2014/06/17...ust-reboot-aadhaar-scheme-231800.html
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  10. Early in 2010, the UIDAI issued a Notice inviting applications for hiring of biometrics consultant. This document carried a candid admission that there was a total absence of evidence about biometrics in the developing world.

    "There is a lack of a sound study that documents the accuracy achievable on Indian demographics (i.e., larger percentage of rural population) and in Indian environmental conditions (i.e., extremely hot and humid climates and facilities without air-conditioning)." And, "we could not find any credible study assessing the achievable accuracy in any of the developing countries. UIDAI has performed some preliminary assessment of quality of fingerprint data from Indian rural demographics and environments and the results are encouraging. The 'quality' assessment of fingerprint data is not sufficient to fully understand the achievable de-duplication accuracy."


    Yet, the decision had already been made that photographs, fingerprints and iris data would be collected, and numbers generated after 'de-duplication', relying entirely on biometrics.

    In November 2011, the Director General of the UIDAI said in an interview: "Capturing fingerprints, especially of manual labourers, is a challenge. The quality of fingerprints is bad because of the rough exterior of fingers caused by hard work, and this poses a challenge for later authentication." Reports on authentication published by the UIDAI in March and September 2012 abound with the uncertainties surrounding biometrics.

    This, then, is an experiment with the entire population as the laboratory, in which the poor and the undocumented will have more to lose than the rest.

    Whose transparency?
    Biometric identification systems are not about identity, but about identification. Biometrics are stored and authenticated by an agency, and claims that persons make about who they are will be determined by technology and the person who wields the technology. The individual has no control over this process.


    It is also about exclusion where either the technology fails, or where persons exercise their judgment and decide that they do not wish to be databased and transparent to the state and those controlling the data, or where those controlling the technology refuse recognition. In India, the language of voluntary enrolment has already given way to mandatory enrolment and seeding the UID number to get food in the public distribution system, to get work, to get cooking gas, to receive scholarships and pensions, to open and operate bank accounts, to register marriages, in rental agreements and sale deeds and wills. The poor have little choice in the matter.

    Whether biometrics can uniquely identify is not the point. The point is that the regular run of people will feel watched and tracked and tagged and profiled, and that will have consequences for the way in which they constitute their politics and its expression. The vulnerability of poverty exacerbates this threat to freedom. Of course there will be someone somewhere who will say that the poor have no use for freedom.

    COMMENT FROM READER:

    the focus of the article is on the highly probable, in fact almost certain "tagging, tracking and profiling of people, with all due respects to the author, I beg to differ with her view that this would happen only to the poor. UID does not collect data on the poor alone, all though UIDAI has deceitfully couched the scheme as meant for the poor. UIDAI starts by saying the the UID Scheme is meant to provide identities to those who do not have IDs and proceeds to ask applicants to produce proof of identities! Secondly, the assumption that accurate identification of beneficiaries would lead better delivery of services is an extremely foolish one and intended to deceive politicians and bureaucrats into believing this falsehood. This too is a charade. The objective of the collection of biometrics is the vain hope that it could be somehow be used to control populations. Every dictator and tyrant, existing and potential, would like to give it a try. The democratically minded (like "Basic democracy" and "Guided democracy" practitioners) among this breed of politicians hope to "win" elections through devices such as cash transfers, which could be used as inducements to garner votes.
    http://www.unrisd.org/sp-hr-ramanathan
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