Nishtha Arora

Two crore national unique identity numbers have been issued by the Unique Identification Authority (UID) in the month of October alone. It is said that UID aims to roll out Aadhaar-based applications for improved service delivery that will ensure that the poor benefits from welfare schemes.

“UIDAI has generated 59.6 million crore Aadhaar numbers within a little more than a year, and more than 100 million citizens have been enrolled in the system across the country”, says the latest official statement from the UID authority. But if recent reports of the UID data being misused are to be believed, these cards run the risk of breaching individual privacy.

As recent media report cites the first of its kind complaint received against the misuse of address proof in UID, anti UID campaigners and researchers are vary of its ‘safety’. “It is like a version of homeland security. We are no longer safe with our data being available on the net. The state can use anybody’s fingerprints and make us look like we committed the crime. You know how easy it is to lift anyone’s fingerprints these days”? rues Usha Ramanathan, an independent law researcher and the main voice behind ‘Say no to UID’ campaign. Gopal Krishna, of The International South Asia Forum (INSAF), has other apprehensions. “Wikileaks has shown that no data is digitally secure over the internet, then how can they claim that this UID data stored would not be hacked”? , he asks.

There is no denying the fact that the UID plan could make it simple for people to access various services such as banking and government subsidies through Aadhaar by merely swiping the cards. However, vulnerability of personal data does raise questions in the mind of the people. Is the digitally saved data in these smart cards secure enough?

Meanwhile advocates of the Unique Identification Authority are confident about the security of data at various levels of collection. “It’s based on biometrics and retina scan etc and this personal information of a resident is digitally safe in the regional centres databases. Also, there is an option the form that asks for the resident to share the information with other authorities and they are free to accept or decline that option. It is just a yes or no option…then where does this question of digital data being misused or leaked out arise? When we are not sharing anyone’s details then how can you say that the police or the state can misuse this data?” questions Sujata Chaturvedi, Deputy Director General (DDG) of UID.

Currently, UIDAI plans to issue 60 crore UID cards by the year 2014. The million dollar questions that needs to be answered at the moment is: Would the UID authority be able to keep up the promise of making functioning easy from the governance perspective and also secure our biometric information digitally safe always?