#India- Warning – UID will create a digital caste System #Aadhaar #Aadhar


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

Interview with WikiLeaks activist, BS

Read more on:    UID | WikiLeaks | Jacob Appelbaum | Julian Assange | Digital caste system

Jacob Appelbaum, WikiLeaks spokesperson

He prefers that the audio recorder is not switched on during the interview because “whenever there’s an audio recording, there’s a file to be subpoena-ed”. And, he’s stuck a band-aid over the camera of the laptop he’s been working on. All these precautions are not without reason – Jacob Appelbaum, computer security researcher, hacker, activist, and a spokesperson for WikiLeaks, who also co-authored Cypherphunks: Freedom and Future of the Internet with WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, talks to Indulekha Aravind about the potential pitfalls of India’s ambitious UID project. Excerpts:

What is your view of India’s UID/Aadhaar programme?
UID will create a digital caste system because going by the way it is now being implemented, if you choose not to be part of the system, you will be the modern-day equivalent of an outcast. In theory, you are supposed to have the freedom to choose but in reality, the choice will only be whether to be left out and left behind.

What about the benefits it is supposed to offer, such as tackling corruption and protection against terrorism?
I don’t dispute that there will be benefits but I dispute whether UID will end corruption and whether one will be able to opt out of the system with dignity. Criminals will be able to subvert this system easily. In Germany, for example, a group of hackers were able to duplicate the fingerprint of Schauble (Germany’s finance minister, a proponent of collecting biometric data). And, it now costs less than a dollar to get a transferable fingerprint. About the question of containing terrorism, imagine a situation where a terrorist gets access to the central UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) database — he will be able to get all the details of every individual he wishes to target.

Considering that the programme has already been rolled out, what can the government now do to safeguard individual privacy?
First of all, there should be no centralised database. The information should be just on the cards. This can easily be done with smartcards. If you link all the information, that amounts to surveillance. There should also be legislation to prevent discrimination against people who have not registered with UIDAI.

What is your current involvement with WikiLeaks?
I like that to remain ambiguous (smiles). I’ve given talks on behalf of Julian (Assange) when he was unable to. After one particular talk I gave in 2010, my life changed. I was repeatedly harassed by US authorities.

What are the other projects you’re currently involved with?
I do computer security-related research, I work with human rights activists, and work with open software. I’m also involved with the Tor project, which aims at improving users’ privacy and security on the internet. If an Indian businessman goes to China, for example, and does not want his internet usage to be monitored, he can do that with Tor. (The Wall Street Journal termed Tor “an anonymous, and controversial, way to surf the Net”).

You have been dubbed a “hacktivist”…
I started working with open software and hacking before I was 15, after I realised I wanted to live in a world free from state surveillance. I’m a human being who does investigative journalism, research, and even works on international policy – I prefer not to be pigeon-holed.

 

UID will result in loss of freedoms: WikiLeaks backer #Aadhaar


The Hindu, By V. Sridha

Computer security expert , Jacob Appelbaum at a talk in TERI complex in Bangalore on Tuesday. Photo : K . Bhagya Prakash
The establishment of a centralised database of Indian citizens such as the Unique Identification (UID) project will result in the loss of freedoms on a “societal scale,” according to Jacob Appelbaum, a staunch supporter of the WikiLeaks project.

Addressing a small gathering of hacking enthusiasts here late on Tuesday, Mr. Appelbaum, an associate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, said he was “horrified” by the establishment in India of the Central Monitoring System (CMS), which was being used to gather a diverse range of analogue and digital information, including telephone records, text messages and Internet traffic. “We live in the golden age of surveillance,” said Mr. Appelbaum, a U.S. citizen who has been detained by U.S. law-enforcement agencies on at least a dozen occasions.

“The problem with the Unique Identification (UID) system or the CMS is not that it will not be perfect,” but the fact that it would result in people being forced to “behave differently” because they would be under surveillance or have to live in fear of it. “This amounts to a loss of freedom,” he argued. “To watch is to control, and surveillance is a kind of control.”

Warning of the possibilities of data theft, Mr. Appelbaum said that though “fingerprint lifting may appear far-fetched now,” techniques for enabling “transferable fingerprints” were being discussed in the public realm. Iris scans, he told The Hindu, were also “far from being foolproof.”

“These are things that deserve resistance, not protest, because protest happens when you do not go along with something,” he said. “Resistance, on the other hand, happens when you stop others from going along.” “I also think we need to build alternatives to these systems.”

Though he conceded that there might be a need for citizen identification systems in society, he argued that centralising them posed grave dangers to the freedom of citizens. “When we centralise the collection of information, we actually centralise the place that an attacker would like to attack to gain control of society,” Mr. Appelbaum said.

The “intentions” of those in authority do not matter because “general purpose information systems” were difficult to protect. “We can try, but there is a threshold of attack, where someone will probably win.” “If there are valid concerns of national security, espionage or terrorism, does it make sense to make a centralised system with all the records of usage of phones, Internet browsing, emails, fingerprints?” “Doing this may result in losses on a societal scale,” he said.

Mr. Appelbaum, co-author, with Mr. Assange, of Cypherpunks: Freedom and the future of the Internet, said “dragnet surveillance” systems amounted to “a tyranny of sorts.”

Example from Nazi Germany

Arguing against the notion that technology is benign, Mr. Appelbaum recalled the use of punching card technologies deployed by the Nazi regime in Germany to target Jews, Communists and others social groups. The machines enabled the regime to determine how many Jews or Communists lived in a particular residential block, he said. “We can understand from the past what possibilities exist in the future for surveillance,” he said. “In fact, when people suggest that surveillance causes no harm, they are denying history.”

He recalled the “Athens Incident” of 2004, when the telephone switches leading to the Prime Minister and a number of Greek parliamentarians were subjected to wiretapping with “interception systems.” He pointed out that telephone-switching standards established in the U.S. were mimicked all over the world. “There is a trickledown effect in all this. So, Greece gets them [interception systems] just the same way as Iran gets them, and just about the way the U.S. has them,” Mr. Appelbaum said.

“The theory goes that the FBI [the Federal Bureau of Investigation], which is legitimate, goes to a court and never abuses its authority, and so everything is fine.” But the “backdoors” built into these switches made them vulnerable to anyone who might have access to the switch through a computer network.

Internet freedom

“In theory, the Internet allows us to be free, but the fact that almost by default, the Internet is not secure implies a breakdown of this freedom,” Mr. Appelbaum said. “This results in a strange situation: people have the freedom to communicate and say what they want, but does the surveillance actually allow them to be free?”

An expert hacker, Mr. Appelbaum said: “Technology is quite boring, when compared with the richness of societies.” Urging the audience to read his book, he said: “You have my blessings to download it from Pirate Bay.”

 

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