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Biometric IDs For Every Indian Citizen 166

wiedzmin writes "This month, officials from the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), armed with fingerprinting machines, iris scanners and cameras hooked to laptops, will fan out across the towns and villages of southern Andhra Pradesh state in the first phase of the project whose aim is to give every Indian a lifelong Unique ID (UID) number for 'anytime, anywhere' biometric authentication. While enrolling with the UIDAI may be voluntary, other agencies and service providers might require a UID number in order to transact business. Usha Ramanathan, a prominent legal expert who is attached to the Center for the Study of Developing Societies in the national capital, said that, 'taken to its logical limit, the UID project will make it impossible, in a couple of years, for an ordinary citizen to undertake a simple task such as traveling within the country without a UID number.' Next step, tying that UID number and biometric information to to their RIM BlackBerry PIN number."
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Biometric IDs For Every Indian Citizen

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @10:29PM (#33516386)

    The original intent of this ID is create something akin to the social security number in the US.

    I'll tell you two important reasons for this
    1. Make resource allocation more efficient.
          For example, there is a concept of basic items like rice, wheat etc... being sold subsidized to poor people.
          That mechanism is very inefficient and red tape laden presently.The ID is supposed to streamline it .

    2. Currently there is no concept credit history in India other than a credit card.
            There is no way a dealer would sell you a TV on credit unless you bring somebody known the dealer along with you.

    Imagine US without SSN. That is what it is now in India. very inefficient.

  • Re:Troll article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @10:45PM (#33516502)
    Yeah, "crime prevention" more like dissident prevention. Lets see here, everything is tied into a single database which ties in voting, economics, etc. tied into a fingerprint database. A few forged prints here and there and you have a rock solid case to charge any dissident.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @10:48PM (#33516530)

    India has a much less uniform naming system, with a lot more duplicate birthdays + names, and much less variance in traits. How many Amrish Patels exist with the same name, color hair, color eyes, and same birthday in India?

    My name is not too common, but still I have a duplicate in my home US state - same name and same birthday for two people. That's fine most of the time, but the other guy is a felon, and the state does not require SSN when you are arrested. Therefore, they cannot distinguish me from the felon. My insurance was cancelled retroactively for 1 month while I was out of town. (thanks to Choicepoint for incorrectly associated his name and criminal record with my insurance - you should opt out). My voter registration was cancelled since they do not use a common primary key for voters.

    Therefore I prefer a real unique identifier that the state government would respect and correctly associate with me. Since the state uses drivers licenses as their primary key, and the feds use SSN as their primary key, I can have different identities in different states, and the cops may accuse me of being the escaped felon one day when I am innocent.

    I don't like the idea of biometrics, but I also don't trust an inaccurate primary key as my identification. A name + birthday != unique.

    The enforcement of privacy should be in the way they allow usage of the identity. Credit and Taxes perhaps are tier 2 concerns compared with entering and leaving the country.

    Just a thought...

  • by Mad Merlin ( 837387 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @10:56PM (#33516588) Homepage

    Not in Canada, there's strict laws about who can ask for a SIN (our SSN). Basically, only your employer and the tax man, as it's only used for tax purposes. I couldn't even tell you what mine is, because I don't carry the card for it, and nobody ever asks for it.

  • Re:Troll article (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @11:04PM (#33516664) Homepage

    You seem to have a lot of faith in government (or in your government).

    The reason Slashdotters (and others) are skeptical of government power is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    FYI, India is at 74 on the corruption index [livemint.com].

    By the way, an ad that pops up when searching for india corruption index is: http://indiaunheard.videovolunteers.org/?s=corruption&x=0&y=0&gclid=CLm1qair-aMCFQtN5wod2T5cGw [videovolunteers.org], which details a lot of corruption. The more tools you give government, the more harm they can do.

    It's naive to think that government officials won't use the awesome amount of cross-linked information for their own purposes.

    Also, you must likely not be a member of any kind of minority or repressed group (there are such in every country).

  • by oiron ( 697563 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @11:10PM (#33516706) Homepage

    Not to mention, names can change through a person's life, say by marriage, or by religious conversion. Or maybe simply because someone doesn't like their current name. Or because they're the-artist-formerly-and-now-currently-known-as-Prince.

    In India, it becomes even more difficult - I see newspaper reports every day with people named as "A" alias "B"; not necessarily for illicit purposes, but just because they may be called differently by different people. Besides, I (for example) don't really have a "family name" - I have a given name and a couple of other identifiers. Even for those who do have "family" names, it's more of a "community" name. For example, the name "Singh" would indicate a North Indian, either a Sikh, or one of the many Hindu clans that use the name. It's not just likely that someone bearing the same first + last name would be pretty similar in physical characteristics, it would be almost a given.

    Quite frankly, I'm glad we're finally getting this.

  • by painehope ( 580569 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @11:25PM (#33516784)

    At least this is happening in India, not in a country that actually matters globally. I feel sorry for the poor bastards that have to deal with it, but if they're not willing to fight for their freedom, then this is what they'll get. At least in the U.S. we've had our experience with SSNs and the more intelligent members of our population (the ones that aren't out to dominate others - that caveat has to be added, since there's plenty of intelligent people who have no respect for freedom, responsibility, or accountability) should, mostly, be able to understand why a program like this is a very, very bad idea for those of us who value our freedom. SSNs are bad enough as-is - a government program that has become a tool of the private business sector as well, tracking every significant purchase or decision a man makes in his life. I'll undoubtedly be haunted the rest of my life by the problems I had when I was married, despite the fact that I made the best decisions that I could at the time (some of which were forced by the economy, some by personal circumstances, some by business matters gone awry)..

    Actually, what bothers me the most about identification systems like this is the invasion of one's privacy. You will never have a chance to start over after losing everything, any person at all may be tracked by government agencies much easier, et al. It makes evil deeds on the behalf of so-called "authorities" (be they governing bodies, businesses, credit tracking agencies, or what-have-you) much easier to accomplish, while offering nothing in return to the citizens subjected to such measures.

  • by WhitetailKitten ( 866108 ) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @11:37PM (#33516850)
    What will this do for Lal Bihari [wikipedia.org] and the many other people declared legally dead (while still possessing for all intents and purposes all characteristics of a living person if not legal identification)? If the answer is "nothing," then I don't see that this is much of an improvement or advancement in the task of maintaining records on your population.

    /* Yes, corruption can override anything. I know. */
  • by computrius ( 1153141 ) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @12:29AM (#33517090)
    1) What is more efficient than just giving the damned rice to the people who need it, no questions asked? 2) You act like the concept of a credit history is a GOOD thing. All credit does is open the door for you to be screwed by a bank. All while probably inflating prices because no-one has to have the cash to buy anything where otherwise items would have to be priced to what people could afford or they wouldnt sell (ex. Cars, Houses, etc.). Do you really thing $100,000 would be the cost of a relatively low end home if there were no loans? It has its good points, but it is way too abused and they are far outweighed by the bad ones.
  • Re:Troll article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Capsaicin ( 412918 ) * on Thursday September 09, 2010 @01:22AM (#33517388)

    The reason Slashdotters (and others) are skeptical of government power is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Now I do agree with you. I would not like to see this much information so easily collated in the hands of administrative authorities and I would add that it's not only governments, but also powerful private interests which would value access to such information about individuals. However, mindlessly repeating glib cliches is a poor way of demonstrating scepticism.

    Does absolute power really corrupt absolutely? I sincerely doubt it. Is there even anything approaching a (negative) correlation between some index of government power and the corruption index you cite? China which is marginally less corrupt on that index appears to have far more authoritarian control, the bottom position is shared between Myanmar where the state rules with an iron fist and Somalia which has seen a complete collapse of state power, while Germany, which for decades has required citizens to carry an identification pass bearing a unique number ID is among the least corrupt.

  • by Enigmafan ( 263737 ) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @02:39AM (#33517708)

    So India is home to the "best and brightest" huh? This proves the country is populated by idiots and mindless drones willing to voluntarily enslave themselves to the government masters. May a thousand plagues beseige you.

    Why? It is voluntary. What happens if only 1% of the Indian people actually allow themselves to be scanned? That would be a powerful signal to the governemnet that people don't want this system.

  • Parity is key for ID (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 09, 2010 @08:12AM (#33519322)

    Not really. IDs should be like bank / account numbers. They should include a parity-part which ensures the number itself is correct, and not changed in some random way.

    Using email address is not really that different from a number either. Remember: A=65, B=66, C=67.. etc. Spammers have proven that even an unused email-address can be guessed, if not too complicated. So text will not solve much, just be another representation of the same kind of information.

    Parity-bits would make sense for an ID number. If one number gets wrong, it shouldn't be POSSIBLE to mistake the identity for another.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 09, 2010 @08:20AM (#33519364)

    "In India, one of the controversial aspects of the biometric ID is that it will include your caste -- seemingly inviting caste-based discrimination. Again, a case where there's an advantage to deciding not to keep information on file."

    Caste and any recognition of this, is illegal in India. I can however understand the government is so inept as to include caste. There are tons of corruption and bad decisions made by government all the time.

    India is currently suffering from superiority complex / low esteem from the time occupied by England. It gets annoying when you spend considerable time there, because at first its a bit funny, but then it just gets annoying when being lectured by Indians how things are and how they should be, as if time was turned 50 years back. They also have a hard time getting society to move with the times, so it is understandable many are trying to "wake up" fellow Indians. It just doesn't work well on foreigners..

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.