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Government Privacy

Indian Census To Collect Fingerprints, Photos 141

adityamalik writes "The Indian census kicks off on Thursday, with approximately 2.5 million people charged with conducting it across the billion-plus strong country. 'Officials will collect fingerprints and photograph every resident for the first time for the register — a process described by Home Minister P. Chidambaram as 'the biggest exercise... since humankind came into existence.' Sensitivity towards collection of biometrics and personal details is quite low in India currently. I wonder how effective — and how powerful — the exercise will turn out to be for the country. I'm also struggling to imagine how the photo and fingerprint collection is going to happen, technology-wise."
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Indian Census To Collect Fingerprints, Photos

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  • Re:Quoi. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sparx139 ( 1460489 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:22AM (#31704708)
    Fingerprints and photos =/= Genetic Data
    Although to answer your question, not much. Although, if illiteracy is as bad as it suggests in TFA, then the purpose is probably to overcome this to some degree - if people can't write their name, then recording their fingerprint and their photo will reduce errors. There's a few reasons listed in TFA:

    But Ashish Bose, a retired professor of Indian and Asian population studies at Delhi University, warned of mistakes creeping in despite the best efforts. "Uneducated people in villages never know their ages correctly. It is never a '51' it always 50 or 55. But overall we conduct a good census -- no doubt about it and the vast majority of people are keen to participate," he said. S. Parasuraman, a demography professor at the Tata Institute of the Social Sciences in Mumbai, said the new population registry will provide a valuable database. "In a disaster for instance, one will be able to pinpoint how many people were living at a place before and after the catastrophe struck. It will be a compilation of useful information enabling proper governance," he said. Data collected for the National Population Register will in turn facilitate the issue of the 16-digit Unique Identity Numbers to all Indian residents. This will serve as a one-stop proof for all Indians to establish their identity, eliminating the current need to produce multiple personal documents.

    Now, putting aside the inherent "creepiness" of fingerprint scanning, it makes sense. It's the Indian poverty version of a driver's license as an ID.

  • by billsayswow ( 1681722 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:28AM (#31704722)
    I heard something about how, in Thailand, they're including blood samples in their census. Yup, the news was just talking about how the citizens are pretty much taking their blood right to the steps of the capitol...
  • Re:Pros... (Score:5, Informative)

    by bhagwad ( 1426855 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:29AM (#31704724) Homepage
    Privacy concerns cannot be "outweighed" because:

    1. Privacy is a legal right guaranteed by the Indian Constitution []
    2. The courts have repeatedly shown that they will uphold privacy
    3. People fought and died for freedoms - not development. Losing privacy is one step towards losing freedoms that we have earned

    You may not treasure your privacy and that's your right. But don't tell me that I mustn't care for it in the name of "Development." A person like you will probably applaud the Chinese government for development at the cost of privacy.
  • Re:Quoi. (Score:5, Informative)

    by T Murphy ( 1054674 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:33AM (#31704732) Journal

    a simultaneous process of collecting biometric data on every person, to be used in a new National Population Register

    Data collected for the National Population Register will in turn facilitate the issue of the 16-digit Unique Identity Numbers to all Indian residents.

    Sounds like they don't have an equivalent of social security numbers- the biometric data will help make it easier to figure out who is who in this process. Given the population, in addition to literacy issues, using an easy method is more practical than trying to minimize police-state like data collection. If you can't expect everyone to keep track of their own ID number, you need another way to peg the person to the number later. As much as I don't like the idea of fingerprinting everyone, if it's the only way to efficiently get the government to better provide services for these people, I see it as a necessary 'evil'.

  • Re:Quoi. (Score:2, Informative)

    by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:49AM (#31704760)
    what genetic data is to be collected? a fingerprint??

    The article does not mention any kind of genetic data collection at all.
  • Re:Chinese Census? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Yuuki Dasu ( 1416345 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @04:08AM (#31704920)

    Uhh I recall watching a video in middle school (a 15 years ago??) about the 1990 Chinese Census of 2 billion people

    That's quite a feat, given that the 2000 Chinese Census put the population of China at only 1,242,612,226 [], not much over half that.

    Some census.

  • Re:Pros... (Score:2, Informative)

    by crazyvas ( 853396 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @04:08AM (#31704922)
    BS. It's not guaranteed by the Constitution. It was a decision made by the Supreme court. HUGE difference.
  • Re:Quoi. (Score:3, Informative)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @04:54AM (#31705008)
    hard to imagine how it sustains a bilion people already.i guess a lot of them are living worse then my dog does (which wouldn't be hard i guess, my dog sleeps in the bed and gets premium raw pet food, he even has a health plan)
  • by Kream ( 78601 ) <hoipolloi AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 02, 2010 @05:13AM (#31705034)

    Bhagwad, you're wrong. I am in fact a lawyer and while Kharak Singh did mention the right to privacy in 1963, that right has scarcely been upheld or even enforced subsequently. Particularly in this day and age where, for example, ALL people renting houses in metros and ALL domestic servants in metros have to register themselves, their lease deeds and particulars with the state, the right to privacy as it is understood in the US is nonexistent here. Your links to your own blog notwithstanding.

  • by Kream ( 78601 ) <hoipolloi AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 02, 2010 @05:25AM (#31705062)

    Well, there's no right to privacy explicitly defined but the 4th amendment and court decisions have, read together, promoted the right of individual citizens to keep their data private from the state. secondly, there exist robust laws limiting data access and retention, which dont exist in india at all. I erred in saying explicitly that the right to privacy was guaranteed under the us constitution, but my meaning, that it is strongly upheld in the US still stands.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2010 @05:44AM (#31705086)

    Why doubt everything that comes from India?

    Indian technical people?

    I mean, sure, there are some good ones and it's really not a place of origin thing at all, but there seems to be a lot of mediocre Indian technical people around at the moment, and it makes everyone sensitive to all of India's flaws.

    It's possibly something do with the quality of education, cultural attitude and social background of recent immigrants, but damn: 'is it?' is not an intelligent thing to say.

  • by bhagwad ( 1426855 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @06:00AM (#31705118) Homepage
    It has been upheld. As recently as 2009, the Delhi HC used privacy as a reason [] for the decriminalization of homosexuality.

    To quote from the Delhi High Court:
    "In the Indian Constitution, the right to live with dignity and the right of privacy both are recognised as dimensions of Article 21"

    To quote again:
    "It is not within the constitutional competence of the State to invade the privacy of citizens lives or regulate conduct to which the citizen alone is concerned"

    How much stronger does this need to be stated before it's recognized that Indian courts protect privacy within the legal framework?

    Recently the Supreme Court said that pre marital sex was no one else's business. The foundation for that is is a strong ideal of privacy.

    Also, lease agreements do not need to be [] registered if it's less than a year. Can you tell me in exactly which way the US looks at privacy differently?
  • Re:Quoi. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Gandalf_the_Beardy ( 894476 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @07:45AM (#31705302)
    But what was just described wasnt at all implausible. In the early 1930's the Jews of Germany were happy to complete the cencus that had a box marked for religion. in 1933 some Austrian managed to get himself installed as Chancellor. Within five years we had had Kristellnacht and then those same census forms were used to start rounding up and ghettoising the Jewish, and other "undesirable" populations. Go back to 1999 and the new milennium - would anyone in the West have imagined that within 2 years we would be figthing a pair of major bush wars in 2 other countries, and be missing a couple of skyscrapers just 2 years later on? If I'd had some official document floating about that marked me as "Muslim" accessible to a lot of people I'd be worried for myself as well even though I had done nothing wrong.

!07/11 PDP a ni deppart m'I !pleH