Tuesday, March 8, 2011

253 - How the UID project can be a cause for concern - ibn live

Jaimon Joseph, CNN-IBM
Posted 25th October 2010

New Delhi: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), headed by Nandan Nilekani, is the UPA government's most ambitious project, where one billion Indians are branded with a unique identity number.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh handed over the first of the Aadhaar cards at Tembhli village in Nandurbar district of Maharashtra. This mammoth project aims to provide Indian residents with a unique 12-digit identification number that will serve multiple purposes.

Given the reach and the impact of such an exercise there is much excitement around the Unique Identity (UID) number (also known as Aadhaar) drive, along with some confusion.

However, there remains some concerns of identity theft.
For example, the number is linked to their fingerprints and the patterns in their eyes. Since those markers are unique to each of us, no one will steal their rations and wages again. They will be issued only after verification. But our eye's Iris patterns change, with age, disease or malnourishment. Fake fingerprints can very easily be made. Hence, the unique element of these numbers can be tampered.
Sunil Abraham, Director, Centre for Internet and Society said, “If I leave my fingerprints around, my identity can be stolen and transactions done on my behalf.”
Activists claim that in a few years, banks, insurance companies, cell phone providers and hospitals will demand UID number before doing business with you. They could use that number, to share information about anybody.
Hence, Abraham said, “An insurance company and a hospital can merge databases. If you have AIDS or TB, they can bump up your premium, or refuse you cover.”
Usha Ramanathan, lawyer said, “Say I go to Srinagar six times in a month. That information could be accessed by the government because the airlines asked for my number before booking a ticket. And that could make me a suspect. There's something wrong in being treated as a suspect for no other reason, than state paranoia.”
Interestingly, even though India seems excited about this project, Britain recently stopped attempts at biometric based identification systems, after warnings that such a database could easily be hacked.