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Story Of a Country Which Has Built a Centralized Biometrics Database Of 1.1B People But Appears To Be Mishandling It Now ( 60

In a bid to get more Indians to have a birth certificate or any sort of ID card, India announced Aadhaar project in 2009. At the time, there were more Indians without these ID cards than those with. As a result of this, much of the government funding for the citizens were disappearing before they could see them. But according to several security experts, lawyers, politicians and journalists, the government is using poor security practices, and this is exposing the biometrics data -- photo, name, address, fingerprint, iris info -- of people at risk. More than 1.1 billion people -- and 99 percent of all adults -- in India have enrolled themselves to the system. From a report: "There are two fundamental flaws in Aadhaar: it is poorly designed, and it is being poorly verified," Member of Parliament and privacy advocate, Rajeev Chandrasekhar told Mashable India. Another issue with Aadhaar is, Chandrasekhar explains, there is no firm legislation to safeguard the privacy and rights of the billion people who have enrolled into the system. There's little a person whose Aadhaar data has been compromised could do. [...] "Aadhaar is remote, covert, and non-consensual," he told Mashable India, adding the existence of a central database of any kind, but especially in the context of the Aadhaar, and at the scale it is working is appalling. Abraham said fingerprint and iris data of a person can be stolen with little effort -- a "gummy bear" which sells for a few cents, can store one's fingerprint, while a high-resolution camera can capture one's iris data. The report goes on to say that the Indian government is also not telling how the data is being shared with private companies. Experts cited in the story have expressed concerns that those companies (some of which are run by people who were previously members of the team which designed the framework of Aadhaar) can store and create a parallel database of their own. On top of that, the government is making Aadhaar mandatory for availing several things including registration for nation-wide examinations, but in the beginning it promised Aadhaar will be used only to help poor get grocery at subsidized prices.
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Story Of a Country Which Has Built a Centralized Biometrics Database Of 1.1B People But Appears To Be Mishandling It Now

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  • by quenda ( 644621 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2017 @10:17AM (#53865087)

    Offshore outsourcing the project?

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      They must have. The tons of genius, high-skilled computer programmers over there (that we desperately need over here via H1-B visas) would have never allowed this kind of security flaw to creep in.

  • At least we know they're not malicious, just incompetent.

    • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2017 @11:00AM (#53865457)
      The bureaucracy in India is so incompetent that it's borderline malicious. I had a colleague that had been in the U.S. for a long time but was going to move back to India to help with the care of his aging parents who were having some medical problems, but was delayed and prevented from returning for an extended periods because his own government didn't believe he was who he claimed to be because apparently someone had stolen his identity and had been voting in years worth of elections while he was in the U.S.

      Beautiful country and nice people, but I think they spend so much of their time being conquered and ruled by other groups that the local populace never developed an ability for efficient governing.
      • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {}> on Tuesday February 14, 2017 @11:29AM (#53865697)

        You can say that again - in 2013, roughly a third of all Indian MPs (158 of 543) were under investigation for serious criminal charges, a third of all lawmakers (1,448 of 4,835) were also under investigation on serious criminal charges. Nearly half of those MPs were under investigation were being investigated for crimes such as murder and abduction.

        Its one of the most corrupt governmental systems that also calls itself a democracy...

        Lets not forget that a caste system is still extremely prevalent in India, so some people have utterly no hope of being elected or being represented in government.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ems2004 ( 814056 )
          Don't put the blame on cast system for incompetence. It is the affirmative action(policy of reservation) that forces the incompetent to have any job that requires skill without having any merit. It is the low cast people now having a field day who know nothing but have all the power.
        • by Luthair ( 847766 )
          One can't entirely believe those numbers though because both the police and judicial system are corrupt too, so we can't really know whether the officials are corrupt or are being targeted by other corrupt officials.
    • It's malicious incompetence []. Everybody has the old meme backwards.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not a single incidence of data being stolen, just the FUD lawyers trying to make a buck off paranoia?!

  • They're storing fingerprints on gummy bears. Next we'll find out Homer Simpson manages the "database". "Abraham said fingerprint and iris data of a person can be stolen with little effort -- a "gummy bear" which sells for a few cents"
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2017 @11:32AM (#53865743) Journal
    In India verification of identity has been a mess for a long time. Much of this complaint is true, and the Indian government can mess things up royally or vice-royally. But you can compare the new system with perfect system and carp about it. Perfection is the goal, but doing better than current version is the shipping criterion, as any coder knows.

    Before aadhaar (meaning proof in Hindi, cognates with similar word in most of indian languages) it was an incredible mess. For most people "the ration card" issued to families to avail services of subsidized food served as a form of identity. Originally it had no photos, and it was one per family, not individual. But the state governments made some basic efforts to curtail fraudulent cards, so it served as an identity card. Voter registration lists were inflated. Migrant people did not have one. Credit worthiness could not be verified. So unsecured loans are never available from organized sector. All unsecured loans were made by local loan sharks who knew people personally. Almost all the commerce was done by cash. Allowed untaxed black money to mix freely with white money. So much so that the government had demonetized 500 Rs, and 1000 rs currency notes. Unless you can prove you had that note legally, you can't exchange it for the new legal tender. It did it back in 1976 too. The country was formed only in 1947.

    The mess is far larger than any one can imagine or fix in short term. Finding fault with any new system is easy. Unless you offer viable solutions and work to address your concerns, one would think, it is just a troll or astro turf or feigned outrage.

    Funny story: I was a lucky person with a propane gas cylinder account with a government owned gas supplier when I graduated from college. Propane gas stoves are the way most cooking is done in India for about half the population. It was a hot thing to have a gas cylinder account! All due to the foresight of my mom who "registered" my name using the ration card when I was in sixth or seventh grade. When I left for America, that account became very valuable. I gave the cylinder I had to my friend. So every time the cylinder would run out, he would use my name and get a replacement. Not sure if I gave my ration card to him too. When I ran into him some 15 years later he said, "I never forgot you. How could I ? Every 20 days, I had to call the Indane Gas company, and identify myself as 140mandak262jamuna!"

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Problem is that India has multiple ID cards, and Adhaar card just adds to it. You forgot to mention the PAN card, which is a photo-ID card w/ a chip, and which could easily have co-opted everything the Adhaar card is supposed to do, and more. A PAN card ought to work as a voter ID card, but that's again different. Also, the first Adhaar 'card' was just a slip of paper with the person's name: nothing that couldn't be scrawled by anybody. That's what's made up this whole mess.

      If the Indian government

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson