Press Release– #India- Biometric Identity Card #UID #Aadhaar

PIB, march 12, 2013


The mandate of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is to issue Unique Identity Numbers (Aadhaar) to all residents of the country and not a card. The UIDAI is generating Aadhaar numbers and communicating it to the residents through a letter. The Resident Identity (smart) Cards (RIC) bearing the Aadhaar number would be issued by the Registrar General of Citizen Registration. The RIC would enable both online and offline authentication of identity in a secure manner and will complement the efforts of Aadhaar. The proposal for issuance of Resident Identity (smart) Cards to all the usual residents in the country who are of age 18 years and above under the scheme of creation of NPR has been appraised by the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) and recommended at an estimated cost of Rs. 5552.55 crore. The Union Cabinet, in its meeting on 31.01.2013, has considered the proposal and referred the same to a Group of Ministers (GoM). The GoM has since been constituted. To minimize the duplication of efforts between NPR and UIDAI, the Government has decided that the NPR enrolments will continue as envisaged but if in the course of enrolment, a person indicates she/he is already enrolled for Aadhaar, the biometric data will not be captured for NPR. Instead the Aadhaar number will be recorded in NPR and the biometric data will be sourced from the UIDAI.

This was stated by Shri R.P.N.Singh, Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs in written reply to a question by Shri P.Karunakaran in the Lok Sabha today.


The birthing pains for an #Aadhaar #UID

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Author: Nivedita K G | ENS
Most people said the government should open more centres in the city so that the process of getting an Aadhaar does not turn into a nightmare.
With the government making it mandatory to possess an Aadhaar card, the queues at Aadhaar centres, albeit not commensurate with the demographics, has been growing as big as Lord Hanuman’s tail. People standing in long queues with the required documents along with an application form is a common scene in most of the centres. The citizens’ main grouse was that there were not enough centres or counters or even manpower to manage the surging crowds as well as help the people to complete the formalities. Most people said the government should open more centres in the city so that the process of getting an Aadhaar does not turn into a nightmare. When City Express interacted with Ashok Dalwai, Deputy Director General and Kishan Kumar Sharma, Assistant Director General of UiDAI, Bangalore with respect to the problems people face at the centres, they spoke at length about the increase in number of centres, about the errors committed in the card and others. Speaking about the increase in number of counters in the city, Kishan said, “Attempts are being made to ramp up the capacity to cope with the demand for enrolment within Bangalore. As of now, approximately 300 enrolment stations have been deployed. The attempt is to increase the number to 600. Centre for E-Governance, Government of Karnataka is the nodal department for Aadhaar project.” When asked if the requirements are made flexible in the recent times, Ashok added, “Enrolment of residents and generation of Aadhaar is subject to certain standard operating procedures which include provision of a valid proof of identity and address. Capture of biometric data is an intrinsic component of Aadhaar generation. It would thus, not be possible to dispense with these requirements.” People in the city have been complaining about the errors in the card and this has led them to question the credibility of the card. “It is acknowledged that there are instances of errors in data capture. In order to avoid and minimise such incidents, UIDAI has a quality control system which includes 100 per cent check of data after upload as well as end of day check by supervisors. However, the first point of check has to be at the time of enrolment itself. Every resident is advised to personally check the details captured by the data entry operator before the enrolment is completed. This is facilitated by providing an additional monitor (screen) for the resident. Further, the information in the consent slip needs to be read by the resident carefully before he or she signs it and returns it to the operator. The resident can also make changes to the enrolment data within 96 hours of enrolment,” explained Ashok. Inappropriate behaviour by the authorities in the counters have also been brought to the notice of the authorities. “Physical comfort and courteous treatment of the residents are emphasised time and again by UIDAI. However, instances of inappropriate behaviour at the enrolment stations have come to note and whenever, such instances do occur, it is taken up with the concerned agency,” Kishan signed off. The 12-unique numbers The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) established in 2009 aims to provide a unique id number in order to maintain a database of residents containing biometric and other data. UIDAI, an agency of government of India which is responsible for implementing the  unique identification project, came up with a project to issue the 12-digit unique number to all the residents of India. This number will be stored in a centralised database and linked to the basic demographics and biometric information of every individual. Another aim of the UIDAI is to address the issue of illegal immigration into the country and terrorist threats. UIDAI launched Aadhaar programme in the tribal village, Tembhli, in Shahada, Maharashtra on 29 September 2010.  The unique identification number promises to provide effective governance, besides providing identity. This will also facilitate entry for poor and underprivileged residents into the formal banking system and also ensures the easy distribution of benefits of government schemes.


Press Release- UID, NPR, and Governance #Aadhaar # Biometrics

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On March 2nd 2013 the Centre for Internet and Society and the Say No to UID campaign held the workshop “UID, NPR, and Governance” at TERI Bangalore. The workshop focused on understanding the present state of the UID and the NPR project and its impact on governance. Questions that were discussed included “What is the UID and NPR”, “how do the NPR and UID transform governance”, and “how do NPR and UID impact citizenship.”

Speaking at the conference, Usha Ramanthan, legal researcher and human rights activist, discussed the differences between the UID project and the NPR project. For example, NPR is legally backed by a statute (though the collection of biometrics under the NPR scheme is not legally backed) whereas the UIDAI is backed only by an executive order. UID will issue a number, while the NPR is the prelude to the National Citizens Register. Thus, it is only a Register. NPR is mandatory while the UID is voluntary. On this note she highlighted the fact that though according to the UIDAI the UID number is voluntary, the UIDAI does not stop, and in fact encourages, other organizations and entities to make the number mandatory. In this way the UID number is becoming compulsory through other means. She also pointed out that the UIDAI stated in a notification that that it will own the data collected and stored in the database. Thus, when individuals hand over information, they are handing over ownership of their data. She closed her presentation by highlighting that not only has the Indian government not bothered to amend the Citizenship Rules to include the collection of biometric data, but also that when the State chooses to implement projects while not following traditional legal procedures, it essentially empowers itself to function in a non-legal way. In this way, it is not necessarily about the UID or the NPR, but instead it’s more about the idea of the state profiling citizens and the technologies which enable it.

Anant Maringanti, geographer at Hyderabad Urban Lab and Right to the City Foundation, spoke on UID and governance. Opening his presentation, he discussed how initially the UID had the potential to be enabling, as it had the ability of creating a way to connect an individual’s presence via an identity. This is particularly important as India’s economy and governance system is dramatically changing. For example, there is mobility of financial capital in India today. Yet, it is concerning that no one is challenging the way in which the UID is being pushed through across the country and the way it is being implemented. For example, students in various states in India are being required to obtain numbers as a prerequisite to attend school. Furthermore, 77 lakh duplicate UID numbers have been found, yet no action has been taken other than discarding one of them. Closing his presentation he noted that for many people the UID is no different than the ration card. This is problematic as the data collection through the UID is vastly different from the ration card, especially as linking biometric data to various databases exposes the data to the potential of fraud.  He also noted that the UID targets marginalized groups with the promise of an identity, yet the UID could expose some of the most vulnerable groups in India.

Other topics discussed at the conference included RTI’s sent to the UIDAI, the impact of the UID and NPR on less privileged classes, and ways to take pro-active action. The audience asked questions about whether UID was mandatory or compulsory, if biometrics were necessary in either scheme, and whether the NPR will also issue UID numbers.


Linking #Aadhaar to Direct Benefit Transfer scheme a mistake, says Aruna Roy #UID #biometrics

Aruna Roy at RTI Activist's National Conventio...

Politics news, Updated Feb 28, 2013


The Direct Benefit Transfer initiative of the government came in for discussion and scrutiny in Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council on February 26. Nandan Nilekani, Chairperson of UIDAI, sought to assure members that Aadhar will not become a tool for exclusion. After the meeting Aruna Roy, one of the foremost critics of the Direct Benefit Transfer initiative said, “We think it is one of the biggest mistakes this country is making i.e. linking Aadhar to welfare delivery”. Mihir Shah, who also participated in the meeting said, “The same concerns seem to be reflected on both sides about managing the transition which is the real problem that is coming in”.

Following are the issues raised by Aruna Roy at the meeting:

– The UID must not be compulsory:

The UID claims to be voluntary method of proving identity but has now become compulsory for anyone seeking government services or social sector entitlements.

– Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) only adds more hassles without providing benefits to the beneficiary:

The new architecture of using the UID to access existing cash benefits through the bank has only added an extra layer of complicated and complex procedures and has burdened both the programme as well as the beneficiary with little apparent advantage. As of now, this is being tested out in a miniscule number of schemes but plans clearly exist to impose it on the large delivery schemes such as MGNREGA, Rations and Pensions where it will never work and cause complete havoc. Beneficiaries are not receiving anything new through DBTs. The difference from before is the requirement of a mandatory UID number and biometric authentication for both the application process and for use each time they receive a benefit. Any shortcoming in the process can result in beneficiaries losing their entitlement.

– Dismal performance in two months of roll out:

Despite the effort to depict it as a game changer, and deployment of huge resources and government machinery, the success rate has been dismal and pathetic. Two months after the roll out in 20 pilot districts, the total amount of money transferred nationally has been just 5.5 crores through the Aadhar based payment network. In Ajmer district for instance, out of approximately 20,000 potential beneficiaries, only approximately 220 beneficiaries have so far received money in the bank through the Aadhar based Payment Bridge. None of them as yet have received money through a biometric identification system. Therefore, in fact the Aadhar system has had zero success till date. This is despite the fact that the number of schemes taken up initially have been small and therefore should have been manageable. In the Janani Suraksha Yojna for instance, only a 139 women, out of approximately 1400 who have delivered children in the hospital have received money in the bank through Aadhar. Even their payment has been made without biometrics.

Even if biometrics were a 100 per cent efficient and workable the Aadhar based payment network will clearly take decades before it will cover its targeted beneficiaries. This is because enrollment is very slow, banking infrastructure is very poor and the existing short-comings of the scheme are only compounded by the complications created by this new requirement. When DBT is expanded to cover programmes with a large number of beneficiaries such as NREGA and pensions, it is likely to result in huge exclusions and delays. This anticipated problem is now sought to be overcome through the appointment of 1 million banking/ business correspondents (BC) to reach the money to the poor. The BC can by design be anyone for example, a kirana storekeeper, a selfhelp group, or any individual who manages to get selected. To the extent that these are tried systems, they have not worked. It is a system that will create middlemen and agents with very poor accountability. However, by rolling it out in order to make the UID based payment system viable, there will be huge costs to the state exchequer as well as the poor of this country.

Add to this the problems of biometric identification and it becomes clear that it must be immediately dismantled if the poor are to receive their benefits

– Serious problems with the BC model (micro-ATMs)

1. The complete lack of accountability of the BC

2. The technical problems with biometric authentication to cover a 100 per cent of the beneficiary population.

3. The need for online authentication where every transaction is sent in real time and an authentication received even in some of the most remote parts.

4. Because this is a closed system which requires 100 per cent efficiency and verification – in the enumerable cases where the system fails, the solution has been to offer manual override through a variety of means. The fact is as soon as you use manual override in such a closed system, it institutionalises potential leakage and fraud. You get the worst of both worlds – the huge harm, cost, and burden of new all encompassing authentication system and the inability to properly monitor the programme itself.

– Net result is exclusion:

Making access to entitlements for the poor that much more difficult, and in certain cases, excluding them all together.

– Experiment on the poor:

This technology is untried and to experiment on the poor is unjustifiable and because it is de-facto compulsory it is also unconstitutional.

– Failed experiment being pushed through:

The roll out is clearly beyond the stage of experimentation, and is being continued despite abject failures.

– Facilitating Cash transfer, abdication of responsibility of government to deliver:

One possible motive for doing this in the welfare sector is to allow the provision of goods and services to be replaced with cash. In many spheres, including the PDS, people in government have been saying that they are unable to deliver efficiently, without corruption and they would prefer to transfer the cash rather than provide the goods or service. If the government were to replace goods and services with cash, it would clearly be abdicating its fundamental responsibility to deliver.

– Feasibility:

No standards have been set to determine feasibility. Current proofs of concept studies are being conducted by the departments themselves.

– Functioning outside of a legal framework:

Recommendation of standing committee has been ignored, and the UID system pushed through at an alarming speed and scale in a legal vacuum despite objections from parliament.

The potential for people and communities to be profiled: Eventually, whether or not this helps in being an efficient delivery system, the aadhar biometric identification will open up the possibility of profiling individuals and communities in an unacceptable manner. Separate silos of information can now easily be merged, and the information misused. This would also pose a fundamental threat to our democratic fabric and affect the fundamental rights of citizens.

Monitoring in the hands of machines and not local communities: Even the de-duplication being claimed has to be examined. So far, no action seems to have been taken against anyone who has used duplicate identities to pilfer benefits. This method of monitoring does not allow immediate local action and it takes places the entire system in a mode of monitoring far removed from the beneficiaries themselves.

Only UID technology being used to the exclusion of other alternative technologies: This is not to say that technology is not useful if used appropriately and wisely. However, the Aadhar system has no place for any alternative technologies like smart cards or localised biometrics. In many cases these maybe more appropriate and better but the centralized Aadhar monolith cannot make space for such innovation or practice.

After the meeting, Aruna Roy and Mihir Shah spoke briefly to CNN-IBN. Here is the transcript of the interview:

CNN-IBN: Why was Nandan Nilekani present at the NAC meet?

Aruna Roy: Nandan Nilekani came to brainstorm with the NAC. He was supposed to meet us long ago and he hadn’t. We all expressed our diverse, different opinions as usual. Many agreed on some issues, many did not agree on some issues. There were all issues about implementation which were expressed. Some approved, some disapproved but this was not an NAC meeting.

CNN-IBN: What is your position?

Aruna Roy: You know my position very well. We think it is one of the biggest mistakes this country is making i.e. linking Aadhar to welfare delivery. So many of us have written about it, have talked about it.

CNN-IBN: Is the NAC divided on this?

Aruna Roy: This was not an NAC meeting. As individuals we have different opinions, some of us agree, some of us don’t agree.

CNN-IBN: What was Nilekani’s presentation about?

Mihir Shah: Nilekani’s presentation was on the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme and the use of Aadhar in it. And he was very responsive to the concerns of NAC members. The essential concern, I believe is that we need to manage the transition well. There is a situation today when not all beneficiaries of government programmes have Aadhar numbers. There is no internet connectivity in large parts of the country. The other concern was people should not be denied benefits if they do not have Aadhar numbers. The transition to a situation where everyone has Aadhar numbers, bank accounts, and internet enabled bank accounts has to be managed very carefully. This could become means of exclusion rather than inclusion. I must tell you that the chairperson of UIDAI, Nandan Nilekani was very clear in his mind there should be no denial of benefits of anyone who does not have an Aadhar number. In fact, he went to the extent to say that if a person does not have fingers or irises there will be what he called a manual override. Given that that is also a possibility, I don’t think we should be apprehensive about the problems caused by Aadhar in the direct benefit transfer by the government.

CNN-IBN: There are questions about the fact that Aadhar now exists in a legal vacuum?

Mihir Shah: What Nilekani said was that the present legal status of the UID does not prevent it from doing what it is doing today. The legal part of it which is yet to be enacted in Parliament (in fact he asked the NAC to help him expedite the process) does not actually come in the way of doing the work that the UIDAI authority is doing today.

CNN-IBN: Is the NAC divided?

Mihir Shah: At least from the meeting today, I got the impression that there is far greater unanimity than I had imagined myself. Because, I think the concerns are shared. And the concerns are also shared by the UID. I think the same concerns seem to be reflected on both sides about managing the transition which is the real problem that is coming in from Kotkasim and all other examples that are being cited. The problem is that if people don’t have bank accounts, if they don’t have Aadhar numbers obviously you cannot use this architecture to use this scheme. But once you do, a large number of NAC members feel that it is a good initiative


How does govt justify ‘Aadhaar’ when its foundation has crashed? #UID

Mathew Thomas, deccan herald

UID – ‘Aadhaar’ was touted out as a ‘transformational’ initiative — one that would change the face of India, make it the most digitised nation in the world, with the biggest data base of demographic information anywhere and so forth.

‘Aadhaar,’ which means ‘support’ or ‘foundation,’ was to be the platform on which all government programmes and many commercial applications were to be built.

The rejection by the parliament’s standing committee (PSC) of both the NIA bill to ‘regularise’ UIDAI’s actions and the UID scheme itself, has brought the Aadhaar foundation crashing down to earth.

The rejection must have come as a shock to many, but for those who were closely following the developments, it was expected. The most important aspect of the committee’s report is that it has gone beyond a mere examination of the bill. It looked at the UID scheme in considerable detail.

The report is hence, not just a view on the bill’s legality, but on the UID project itself, its dangers, utility and feasibility also. It examined expert witnesses and provided adequate opportunity to UIDAI authorities to rebut criticism. But UIDAI seems to have failed miserably in convincing the committee.

There is near unanimity on the report, as 28 of the 31 members agreed with it. Of the three dissenting notes, one said that he was new and hence, not aware of the details. Another senior Congress member dissented without giving any reason.

Besides, the home ministry has raised concerns on national security. The finance ministry has questioned aspects of the expenditure. It is easy to dismiss these as turf wars within government. The committee, however, gave credence to objections of both ministries.

In fact, the committee has rejected the scheme on seven major counts and consequently concluded that the bill in its present form is unacceptable. It urged the government to reconsider and review the UID scheme and the bill, in all its ramifications.

The seven grounds on which the committee based its report were: lack of feasibility study, hasty approval, threats to national security, being directionless, using unreliable technology, need for privacy and data-protection and lack of coordination among government agencies involved.

The committee also questioned the legality and ethics of implementing the scheme without statutory authority. Some of the observations of the committee are scathing.

For example, it said, “The UID scheme has been conceptualised with no clarity of purpose and is being implemented in a directionless way and may end up being dependent on private agencies.”

UIDAI has contracted for biometric technology from a former US company, L1 Identity Solutions, with close links to US intelligence agencies. It is now a subsidiary of Safran of France. UIDAI has not disclosed the terms of the technology contract. From available information, it appears that L1 does the de-duplication of biometric data.

Continued dependence
The system integration contractor is another foreign company, Accenture PLC. The entire national demographic data base would be stored in foreign, private company systems, apart from continued dependence on them for identification. In these days of cyber wars, if this does not raise concerns of national security, what will?

If Huawei and Devas were considered security threats, why not L1 be thought so too? The lack of a feasibility study for such a project is indefensible. That the idea was the brainchild of an ex-corporate honcho, who should know the essentiality of feasibility studies before money is spent, makes UID’s implementation without it, astonishing.

Next, the committee talks of ‘hasty approval.’ The fact that a law was thought necessary is evident from the NIA bill tabled in the House. If a law was essential, why launch the project, without it?

This is the same government, which is at pains to uphold the sanctity of parliamentary processes, for the Lokpal bill. Why does it have double standards for UID project? The committee’s view that the UID project is ‘directionless’ has good justification. One need to see only how many times, the question has been asked, whether UIDAI would issue an ID card.

Even today, no one knows, whether Aadhaar is a card or a number in a data base. Orders were issued to print cards recently and then cancelled. UIDAI has been talking of opening up the ‘Aadhaar platform’ for building commercial applications. No one knows what this means.

There is a business portal on the UIDAI website. Is the government aware of the intention to use data gathered by spending public funds, for private businesses? While UIDAI confines itself to providing identity, it leaves its use to others, like the state government civil supplies departments. How this would lead to better targeting of the beneficiaries of Central subsidies is unclear.

The concept of UID is based on the assumption that lack of identity is the reason for inability of the poor to access welfare. This appears seriously flawed. It ignores the discretion vested in government officials in deciding eligibility. Extraneous considerations, such as caste and other prejudices and sheer helplessness of the poor are the real reasons for denial of welfare. Corruption by those who are to prevent leakage is the major cause. The government seems to have misplaced priorities.

Instead of spending on storage, preserving food grains, and streamlining the distribution system, it is embarking on a massive IT project to provide identities to people, ostensibly to target the poor.

The committee concluded that the NIA bill is unacceptable and  urged the government to review the project. Perhaps, wiser counsel would still prevail and the government may halt further expenditure on the project immediately and evaluate it properly.

(The writer is a civil activist)


Migrant students face UID nightmare WTFnews


Biometric scanning of fingerprints during the launch of UID enrolment at the General Post Office in Bangalore

Biometric scanning of fingerprints during the launch of UID enrolment at the General Post Office in Bangalore

DC | Sohini Guharoy |12feb, 2012
Bengaluru: Several migrant students and professionals are in a dilemma about enrolling for Aadhar. Since many often need to relocate for higher studies or jobs, it becomes difficult for them to go back to their home states every time for documents and follow up with the local offices.
Unaware of the exact rules, Sharmila Mukherjee, a student, was asked to apply for her Aadhar card in her hometown when she recently went to enrol in Bengaluru. She is a resident of Asansol who did her graduation in Kolkata and is now doing her Masters in Bengaluru. Her IDs show her permanent address and she was asked to get her Aadhar card made there. But such a rule doesn’t exist and she was unnecessarily harassed.
As per the rules, “Anybody can get their Aadhar cards made anywhere in India. It is on a national platform. Students or professionals can apply in whichever state they are currently residing. All they have to ensure is that there should be someone to collect their Aadhar cards at their permanent address when it is sent by mail, in case they are not there at that point of time.” said Ashok Dalwai, Deputy Director- General, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
The process is the same for everyone, irrespective of the address their IDs have and where they are currently residing. They need to provide their identity proof and address proof while enrolling for their Aadhar card and their biometric authentication will be done at the location where the enrolment has been done. If the documents are authentic and verified, then there should be no problem for anybody to get their Aadhar card, Dalwai added.
He, however,pointed out that multiple enrolments should not be done as that would delay the process and every individual would get only one Aadhar card.


#Aadhaar enrollment rejected for being duplicate although that was not the case #WTFnews #UID



Ashok MR Dalwai Deputy Director General 080-22341622


11 February 2013


Dear Mr.Ashok Dalwai,

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200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am writing regarding the Aadhaar card/number of my domestic help, Smt.Chikka Thayamma. She enrolled into the scheme on 10.08.2011 at Mysore, and holds Acknowledge Slip No.1037/11430/03434 with date-time as 12:21:49.

I have checked her enrollment number on internet and received the system response, “Your Aadhaar enrollment has been rejected. As per UIDAI’s records, you were earlier enrolled through another enrollment ID”, even though she enrolled on 10.08.2011 for the first and only time.

I am at a loss as to what to advise her to do, because it appears from the message quoted above, that her biometrics as captured by the system were already present in the system, and her enrollment has been treated as a duplicate (“As per UIDAI’s records, you were earlier enrolled through another enrollment ID”), and hence rejected. Also, the system response is unhelpful as it does not suggest any solution, since she has not been asked to re-enroll as some others have been advised on rejection of their Aadhaar enrollment.

Please immediately advise me whether my surmise of biometric duplication is correct, and if not, what is the cause and what is the remedy. I am aware that the Application Form for enrollment contains a certificate that the applicant has not previously enrolled. Smt.Chikka Thayamma is anxious to avail the subsidy for LPG and has to submit her Aadhaar number by 15 February 2013.

Requesting an immediate response from you in this case,

Yours faithfully,

Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd)

475, 7th Main Road

Vijayanagar 1st Stage







When a Palm Reader Knows More Than Your Life Line #biometrics #privacy

Published: November 10, 2012

“PLEASE put your hand on the scanner,” a receptionist at a doctor’s office at New York University Langone Medical Center said to me recently, pointing to a small plastic device on the counter between us. “I need to take a palm scan for your file.”

I balked.

As a reporter who has been covering the growing business of data collection, I know the potential drawbacks — like customer profiling — of giving out my personal details. But the idea of submitting to an infrared scan at a medical center that would take a copy of the unique vein patterns in my palm seemed fraught.

The receptionist said it was for my own good. The medical center, she said, had recently instituted a biometric patient identification system to protect against identity theft.

I reluctantly stuck my hand on the machine. If I demurred, I thought, perhaps I’d be denied medical care.

Next, the receptionist said she needed to take my photo. After the palm scan, that seemed like data-collection overkill. Then an office manager appeared and explained that the scans and pictures were optional. Alas, my palm was already in the system.

No longer the province of security services and science-fiction films, biometric technology is on the march. Facebook uses facial-recognition software so its members can automatically put name tags on friends when they upload their photos. Apple uses voice recognition to power Siri. Some theme parks take digital fingerprints to help recognize season pass holders. Now some hospitals and school districts are using palm vein pattern recognition to identify and efficiently manage their patients or students — in effect, turning your palm into an E-ZPass.

But consumer advocates say that enterprises are increasingly employing biometric data to improve convenience — and that members of the public are paying for that convenience with their privacy.

Fingerprints, facial dimensions and vein patterns are unique, consumer advocates say, and should be treated as carefully as genetic samples. So collecting such information for expediency, they say, could increase the risks of serious identity theft. Yet companies and institutions that compile such data often fail to adequately explain the risks to consumers, they say.

“Let’s say someone makes a fake ID and goes in and has their photo and their palm print taken as you. What are you going to do when you go in?” said Pam Dixon, the executive director of the World Privacy Forum, an advocacy group in San Diego. “Hospitals that are doing this are leaping over profound security issues that they are actually introducing into their systems.”

THE N.Y.U. medical center started researching biometric systems a few years ago in an effort to address several problems, said Kathryn McClellan, its vice president who is in charge of implementing its new electronic health records system. More than a million people in the New York area have the same or similar names, she said, creating a risk that medical personnel might pull up the wrong health record for a patient. Another issue, she said, was that some patients had multiple records from being treated at different affiliates; N.Y.U. wanted an efficient way to consolidate them.

Last year, the medical center adopted photography and palm-scan technology so that each patient would have two unique identifying features. Now, Ms. McClellan said, each arriving patient has his or her palm scanned, allowing the system to automatically pull up the correct file.

“It’s a patient safety initiative,” Ms. McClellan said. “We felt like the value to the patient was huge.”

N.Y.U.’s system, called PatientSecure and marketed by HT Systems of Tampa, has already scanned more than 250,000 patients. In the United States, over five million patients have had the scans, said Charles Yanak, a spokesman for Fujitsu Frontech North America, a division of Fujitsu, the Japanese company that developed the vein palm identification technology.

Yet, unless patients at N.Y.U. seem uncomfortable with the process, Ms. McClellan said, medical registration staff members don’t inform them that they can opt out of photos and scans.

“We don’t have formal consent,” Ms. McClellan said in a phone interview last Tuesday.

That raises red flags for privacy advocates. “If they are not informing patients it is optional,” said Joel Reidenberg, a professor at Fordham University Law School with an expertise in data privacy, “then effectively it is coerced consent.”

He noted that N.Y.U. medical center has had recent incidents in which computers or USB drives containing unencrypted patient data have been lost or stolen, suggesting that the center’s collection of biometric data might increase patients’ risk of identity theft.

Ms. McClellan responded that there was little chance of identity theft because the palm scan system turned the vein measurements into encrypted strings of binary numbers and stored them on an N.Y.U. server that is separate from the one with patients’ health records. Even if there were a breach, she added, the data would be useless to hackers because a unique key is needed to decode the number strings. As for patients’ photos, she said, they are attached to their medical records.

Still, Arthur Caplan, the director of the division of medical ethics at the N.Y.U. center, recommended that hospitals do a better job of explaining biometric ID systems to patients. He himself recently had an appointment at the N.Y.U. center, he recounted, and didn’t learn that the palm scan was optional until he hesitated and asked questions.

“It gave me pause,” Dr. Caplan said. “It would be useful to put up a sign saying ‘We are going to take biometric information which will help us track you through the system. If you don’t want to do this, please see’ ” an office manager.

Other institutions that use PatientSecure, however, have instituted opt-in programs for patients.

At the Duke University Health System, patients receive brochures explaining their options, said Eliana Owens, the health system’s director of patient revenue. The center also trains staff members at registration desks to read patients a script about the opt-in process for the palm scans, she said. (Duke does not take patients’ photos.)

“They say: ‘The enrollment is optional. If you choose not to participate, we will continue to ask you for your photo ID on subsequent visits,’ ” Ms. Owens said.

Consent or not, some leading identity experts see little value in palm scans for patients right now. If medical centers are going to use patients’ biometric data for their own institutional convenience, they argue, the centers should also enhance patient privacy — by, say, permitting lower-echelon medical personnel to look at a person’s medical record only if that patient is present and approves access by having a palm scanned.

Otherwise, “you are enabling another level of danger,” said Joseph Atick, a pioneer in biometric identity systems who consults for governments, “instead of using the technology to enable another level of privacy.”

At my request, N.Y.U. medical center has deleted my palm print.



P Sainath- -‘ Biometric data you can buy on streets of Mumbai ” #UID #Aadhar #Nationalsecurity

Photo courtesy- G . N Mohan, Bangalore

P Sainath‘s remarks at the public meeting organised recently  by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis:

(He says, at the end of 45 minutes, that he hasn’t yet touched upon a whole bunch of security issues, naming some of the more well-known civil/violent agitations, and then goes on) Oh yeah, I think that we are also involved in a number of other active processes that undermine [your] our insecurity, including the UID. OK. By the way, that outsourced biometric work. You can buy that data on the streets of Mumbai. It’s already made its way there. What sort of national security will you have when your biometric data is up for grabs all around the planet? You outsourced it to subcontractors who have subcontracted it to further people. It’s now available on the streets of Mumbai, biometric data.
Another thing let me tell you about this stupid, stupid idea. Anywhere in the world, anywhere in the world, there is no-one who has made a success of the UID type of system. The UK started this kind of national ID system, abandoned it in four months. Australia, it collapsed at the discussion stage. No other country has made a success of it, one, and no-one claims that it is is technologically infallible, and three, very importantly, in any society, there is 5 % to 7 % of the population that does not have any fingerprints. In India, that is 15% +, because of agricultural labour: they do not have fingerprints. OK? The washerwomen, they do not have fingerprints. A lot of professions in India: and those are the very people who will get de-accessed from your public distribution system, using the UID. The very people who need your public distribution system, the very people who need your social sector benefits, these are the very people who will be excluded from it, because they don’t have fingerprints. You are asking for big, big trouble, with this project.

Fake enrolments in Aadhaar Phase-I spark security fear #NandanNilekani #UID


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Express news service : New Delhi, Tue Aug 14 2012,

Delhi government officials have detected a large number of fraudulent enrolments in the first phase of Aadhaar that ended in February after registering 1.3 crore people in the city.

Officials in the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) said on Monday many people got themselves enrolled without providing their biometric identification. The “biometric exception” clause is essentially meant for rarest-of-the-rare cases, say, for people with high degree of physical disabilities, they said.

“We are going to take this up with the UIDAI. It is a major security threat. A rigorous protocol needs to be followed for enrolling individuals under this clause,” Principal Secretary (Revenue) Vijay Dev said.

Another security threat, which even the Union Home Ministry is concerned about, has been non-verification of the residential and other addresses provided by those who got enrolled in the first phase, Dev said.

“To complete the enrolment process for the remaining population, verification of address has been made mandatory. We have learnt that the UIDAI would make alternative arrangements to deliver the UID cards and letters. Several letters have returned undelivered in Phase-I. There have been cases of letters being found in dustbins,” he said.

The UIDAI has asked the Postal department to redirect letters to a changed address if the person has formally informed the post office about it.

Deputy Director General of UIDAI’s Delhi zone Sujata Chaturvedi admitted that the irregularities in the biometric clause have been detected and “the guilty officials were penalised”.

“For Phase-II, we will deploy retired government officials as verification agents to look at the documents at all centres. We didn’t do that in Phase-I. We are streamlining this process across all the states and Union Territories to be covered over the next 18 months in Phase-II. There is no security threat,” Chaturvedi said.

Officials said they would try to prevent fraudulent enrolments when Phase-II of Aadhaar is launched this week to register 40 lakh people in the city.

In the National Capital Territory of Delhi, a total of 1,30,60,329 enrolments were done till February against a targeted population of 1,67,53,235.

UIDAI officials said 1,14,18,763 letters have been generated, of which 1,03,12,792 were delivered.




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