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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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  • Pros... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by doishmere ( 1587181 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:21AM (#31704700)
    As long as reasonable attempts are made to keep this information secure and out of the hands of the police, this is a case where the privacy concerns are far outweighed by the benefits. India has the world's second largest population []; think about how difficult it must be form them to keep track of even simple census data. The U.S. has a population one fourth the size of India, and still has trouble taking taking a census only once every 10 years. This will allow India to better allocate aid to impoverished regions, or even just track what percentage of children actually attend school.
  • Re:Quoi. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:32AM (#31704730) Journal
    Depends on your population trends and ruling elites greatest fears.
    From a criminal underclass susceptible to outside messages, an ever expanding number of farmers with no land, no work and no compensation.
    With fingerprints and fast FBI like data processing many crimes will point back to an id on file and a photo.
    The problem with the ID dream is the "freedom fighters" will have "one way" mission ready perfect ID.
    Everybody else has to sit as expensive ID is produced, printed and used everyday.
    The real fun is then the figure print scan expansion.
    To access new expensive and later daily government services would a fast, user friendly finger 'scan' be introduced?
    Protest too much and your ID has errors, stop protesting and it works again?
    Take your case to a human rights worker - your ID stops for much longer and the state has an ID on the humans right worker.
    The state can turn or dispose of trouble makers and work on long term solutions to local problems.
  • Re:Quoi. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bhagwad ( 1426855 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:39AM (#31704742) Homepage
    What you say is scary, but it won't happen in India for a simple reason:

    The Indian government is (luckily) incompetent and indisciplined. For tyranny to succeed, discipline is necessary which the Indian government doesn't have. An incompetent government is a gift to the people. Better than having competent fanatics. Undisciplined people can't do great irreversible damage!
  • As an Indian citizen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kream ( 78601 ) < minus distro> on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:53AM (#31704768)

    Makes sense to point out here 2 crucial differences between the US and India.
    In India, there's no Right to Privacy as strongly guaranteed under the US Constitution. Secondly, there is a strongly articulated bundle of rights called the "Right to Life". This includes the right to food, education, access to free / subsidised health services etc. In India, there are massive government programmes for the provision of basic services (food, shelter, education, irrigation, water, electricity, transport etc) to citizens.

    In this context, the people, rather than being wary of the state and treating it like an enemy as is the case in the US actually want the state to help them. If you were to provide an Indian farmer with irrigation, access to primary healthcare facilities, water, sanitation, education and drought/flood relief, most would gladly fork over their private details.

    Of course, modern states are brutal and the information collected will no doubt be used to casually repress people and tighten the state's hold on them. However, the integrity of your DNA fingerprint is of little consequence if you've committed suicide [] because of mounting debts.

  • Re:Pros... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:54AM (#31704772)
    Wow. I haven't read the Indian Constitution, but that sounds pretty impressive. Certainly sounds like something the so-called "free world" would do well to emulate. Yeah, I know, fat chance.
  • by Kream ( 78601 ) < minus distro> on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:57AM (#31704780)

    One point to note here is that unlike the US, democracy works in India in the sense that there is a true multi-party system and a plethora of actual contenders from power, from the far left (Communist Party of India - Marxist) to the far right (Shiv Sena) (Army of Shiva) and the people have demonstrated that they are perfectly willing to consign parties to oblivion permanently if they don't serve public interests.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2010 @03:15AM (#31704820)

    Why is there always a question mark on non-Indians about their ability to achieve something? I see lots of uncertainty expressed about India and Indians in forums.
    I know people the electronic voting machine miserably failed in the US, for instance. Still they have not got it right. In India, they have been using electronic voting system for a long time now. I know the kind of spending they do in the US to achieve anything. In India, they spend 100 times lesser to achieve the same thing. The US does not know efficiency! It's all extravagant. The quality revolution in the US, which started after Japan's, is itself a testimonial to their being historically inefficient. I have nothing against anyone, jsut do not always doubt others.

    You may be a human being, an animal that can be as intelligent as possible. But, frogs and rodents are more intelligent when it comes to predicting earthquakes.

  • Re:Quoi. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2010 @04:59AM (#31705016)

    Firstly, I'm Indian.

    They aren't going to do anything useful - paperwork will still be the way they ("our" government) does things. To be honest, most ppl working in government desk jobs are stupider than your average office-going person. It will take at least 5 years for anything useful to come of it.

    I sure as shit hope they're using a 64 bit doubleword, longword, long long, quad, quadword or int64 [] for the 16-digit UIN/UID, with a unique key in their database. Knowing Indian govt., that's an easy thing for them to muck up.

    I wonder if ppl can start buying UIDs :-) And how much it costs to get an extra one (fake) :-)

    People in India do not understand the implications of anything privacy related other than locking the door and possibly checking your computer for viruses/virii.

    Anyways, I probably won't get one since I'm not a resident.

    captcha word: "robbed" - how ironic.

  • Caste system (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2010 @07:07AM (#31705252)

    Wonder what the implications are for a country that creates under- and over-privilege through a genetically-driven caste system.

    There are probably a lot of people who would prefer to remain anonymous lest someone discover they are not of as high a status as they pretend to be.

  • duh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Cowpat ( 788193 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @07:39AM (#31705294) Journal

    Am also struggling to imagine how the photo and fingerprint collection is going to happen, technology-wise.

    Lots of these []
    Might be expensive, though.

    But on a serious note, it should be interesting to see, after 1 billion fingerprints (about 1/6 of the world population) are gathered, whether the assumption that they're unique is still valid.

  • Re:Quoi. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jackal40 ( 1119853 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @08:11AM (#31705340)
    People always say this is unlikely or unrealistic until it happens. As one posted already, we had an Austrian Corporal use Germany's census data to round up the Jews and the United States government did the same to the Japanese Americans during World War 2 - using census data.

    If you're OK with providing all the information government asks for during the census, fine. I am not, not because of some tin foil hat conspiracy theory - just from a sense of history. It will probably amount to nothing, but I don't buy the explanations of why they need that info.

    Fortunately, in the United States, we are not (yet) at the point of the government collecting photos and fingerprints. I don't expect that will last too much longer - probably be required as part of health care.
  • Re:Quoi. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @08:23AM (#31705410) Homepage

    Made-up scenario?

    The Census has already admitting to giving information [] on Japanese-Americans for the purpose of their internment at concentration camps during WWII.

    After denying it for decades, they finally admitted giving names and addresses [] of Japanese-Americans to the military.

    Generally, if the government tells you X, the truth is likely Not X.

  • Re:Quoi. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:12AM (#31705626)


    Poor in America are fat mostly because the cheapest and most accessible foods have high calories and low nutrients (somewhat exacerbated by low levels of physical activity).

    I am not even going to bother refuting your ridiculous assertion about healthcare, my rage at your ignorance and arrogance isn't good for my blood pressure.

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's