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Guest post by @St_Hill examines some problems in the use of Aadhaar where the use of the UIDAI authentication goes beyond what it was designed for and compromises the privacy or security or both of users. However, stopping use that compromises security would mean much reduced adoption of Aadhaar.

Most debates around UIDAI and Aadhaar focus on privacy concerns, security of the database and on the legality of making Aadhaar mandatory. Even if these three issues get sorted out, there are four other basic issues that need attention. In all these four issues, you will see the following common themes

  • It is very likely that UIDAI knows the existence of the issue
  • Entities other than UIDAI are using Aadhaar incorrectly and sometimes dangerously
  • UIDAI has framed policies protecting itself from implications of these wrong usages
  • UIDAI is unlikely to address these issues, because solving them may reduce the usage and acceptance of Aadhaar

Issue #1: UIDAI knows that Aadhaar is not an address proof, and that the industry uses it as an address proof, but will choose to remain silent about it.

Various entities allow Aadhaar to be used as both an identity proof as well as an address proof — banks for example use biometric eKYC to onboard new customers. But the reality is that UIDAI does not validate the address of every applicant. Though applicants are asked to provide an address proof for Aadhaar enrolment, it is optional — the enrolment process (and form) is designed to allow anyone to get an Aadhaar without any documents (mainly because Aadhaar is meant even for those sleep under the flyover).

aadhaar enrollment form
Aadhaar enrolment form screenshot. If you don’t have (or choose not to give) an address proof, you can choose Introducer or Head of Family based verification and get any address updated in Aadhaar. (Attestation by the introducer is all it takes)

UIDAI is aware of this flaw, which explains why the Aadhaar Bill has multiple mentions of Aadhaar being a proof of identity, but has NO mentions of it being a proof of address.

aadhaar not proof of address
Note the strategic absence of “proof of address” in the Aadhaar Bill

It would be appropriate of UIDAI to clarify to RBI and other authorities that Aadhaar is not a proof of address, but that would mean banks and telcos would no longer be interested in eKYC — imagine if banks are asked to collect a second document as address proof despite performing a biometric eKYC. Thus if UIDAI were to “fix” this issue, eKYC (Aadhaar’s core feature) will become useless and Aadhaar’s acceptance will be impacted.

Issue #2: Aadhaar is not a proof of citizenship, but it can be used to either apply for a passport, or obtain other identity documents which can then be used to apply for a passport.

The Aadhaar Bill Section III.9 states the following:

Screenshot from Aadhaar Bill Section III.9

But this hasn’t stopped the Passport office from listing Aadhaar as an acceptable document — they go even further to state that “Furnishing of Aadhaar card will expedite processing of passport applications”.

From the Passport Seva website

Even if Passport office were to stop accepting Aadhaar as a valid document, a non-Indian can apply for a bank account or water connection or electricity connection using an Aadhaar number, and then apply for a passport using the bank statement or utility bill as an acceptable document.

The only way for UIDAI to address this is to declare that Aadhaar cannot be used for passport applications, public utilities, bank accounts and any other services which may then be used to apply for a passport. But of course, this would limit the usage and acceptance of Aadhaar, reducing its relevance.

Issue #3: Possession of a physical Aadhaar card should not be considered as identification in airports, trains and other places.

UIDAI does not include holograms or physical signatures or any other security information in the Aadhaar cards that are sent to applicants — it is just a colour printout of your Aadhaar information. You can also download and print your Aadhaar (even in black and white) as your Aadhaar card — print multiple ones and each one will be considered “original”.

aadhaar black and white printouts are valid
Clarification from UIDAI that black and white printouts of Aadhaar info are as valid as the Aadhaar card sent to you or the plastic cards that someone laminated for you

This is because UIDAI does not consider possession of an Aadhaar card as authentication that it belongs to you. UIDAI instead asks entities to authenticate the Aadhaar number based on OTP or biometrics by connecting to the UIDAI system, prior to usage.

See last sentence in Aadhaar Bill Clause 4: Aadhaar can be used as proof of identity “subject to authentication”

But in reality, the ticket checker in trains, the security guard at the airport entrance and many other places consider a physical Aadhaar card as a valid identity document.

If UIDAI were to publicly clarify that the physical Aadhaar card is irrelevant and electronic authentication is required prior to being used, it would mean that the airport security guard or the train ticket inspector carries a biometric device with them for validation. This would slow down their entire process and they would instead insist that you provide an ID proof other than Aadhaar. So if UIDAI tried to fix this problem, it would mean reduced acceptance of Aadhaar in public life, again reducing its relevance.

Issue #4: Aadhaar numbers are probably meant to be secret to avoid misuse, but UIDAI does not stop organizations from putting Aadhaar information out in public.

Only a professional counterfeit artist can recreate passports or driving licenses — this is because there are security features like holograms in an original document. But this does not apply to Aadhaar — there is no concept of an “original” Aadhaar card (See Issue #3 above). A printout of Aadhaar information is being treated by various entities as a valid document, so it is easy for a fraudster (even an amateur) to print out your Aadhaar card if he knows your basic information like Aadhaar number and name), and start submitting in different places where the Govt asks us to.

UIDAI is aware of this issue, and hence Section 29 of the Aadhaar Bill states that entities which use your Aadhaar number should ensure the following:

Aadhaar numbers shall not be posted publicly by organizations collecting them

This basically puts the onus on 1000s of different organizations to ensure that they do not make your Aadhaar number public. Do a Google search for “Aadhaar number name filetype:xls” and prepare to be stunned at what is out there. Among those multiple excel sheets in the results, you will even find a Ministry website which has uploaded many excel sheets of 1000s of people’s information including name, DOB, address, and Aadhaar number.

websites have uploaded personal aadhaar information
Websites have uploaded excel sheets of people’s information including Aadhaar numbers
website has uploaded personal aadhaar information for 1360 people
One such excel sheet has all this information of 1360 people out there in public

Printing their Aadhaar cards will probably take a few minutes of effort for a fraudster with a computer and a black and white printer.

UIDAI can stop this by identifying such entities and stopping them from putting out Aadhaar numbers in public, but it is a mammoth monitoring effort. The other solution for UIDAI is same as the solution for Issue #3, which will again reduce Aadhaar’s relevance.


As is now evident, UIDAI is faced with two choices in each of these issues. They can either fix the issue running the risk of Aadhaar irrelevance in public life, or they can choose to stay silent running the risk that something may go wrong at a large scale in the future.

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A guest post by Hari Prasad on the propaganda prevailing in India, the nature of it and the implications it has for the country and its ability to understand its government.

India. It was May, 26th 2014. There was a coronation in front of an historic building to an undisputed emperor of the purportedly new dawn, the king of good days (not times). There was hope, expectation, (misplaced) rejuvenation among many and there was anxiety, curiosity, worry and suspense among another lot. What one thinks and feels (or felt of thought) is not relevant when it comes to judge what has happened since.

There have been seemingly unconnected statements made by various ‘fringes’ – a term which is mostly an excuse by the present ruling dispensation in India and its larger family the RSS. It is important to see why these statements and certain actions are to be seen in cohesion and not as so called ‘isolated’ anomalies.

But how are things handled these days in India? How is criticism taken these days in India? How is opposite point of view is viewed in India? All of these not by Indians but by the present ruling dispensation and its cohorts in India.

I have kept the prose very rudimentary, less grammatical and only in hints or examples (not explanations) and there is a reason to it.

Ad hominem:

You place an argument and instead of responding to that argument, we are called names. I will let you assume what those names have been and how many people have been victims of those. To electoral opponents in Delhi to an economist.

Ad nauseum:

How many times have we heard a single or very limited ideas being repeated – like ‘Love jihad’ or ‘us vs them’ or ‘appeasement of past’?

Appeal to authority:

How many seemingly unconnected and extremely opposite national icons have been appropriated by this group? Bhagat Singh was a completely left. Ambedkar called Hinduism “a veritable chamber of horrors.” Netaji had nothing to do with RSS. Patel was opposed to RSS. Yet, and that’s where the beauty lies, they are being appropriated.

Appeal to Prejudice:

How many loaded and emotive election campaigns have we seen during 2014 and two years after that? Whether it is 15lakh per person to Muslim across the border in Assam to crackers across the border in Bihar, to the latest Kairana, we have come a long way in just appealing to only emotions.

Big Lie:

The big lie was economy was absolutely down. Nothing moved. Policy paralysis. Based on the new series (or magic series, if you are one of the critics), in fact the economy didn’t do as bad in numbers published by the finance ministry in final years of UPA. But in meetings after meetings, in interviews after interviews we heard the word “revival” used sparingly and without any inherent meaning. There was no concrete proof provided on what that word meant. There was neither concrete proof provided for the word “in shambles.”

And oh, the global economy was blamed. And what did the world see after 2008? A high growth and high demand period? (more on specifics in another post)

Black and white fallacy:

Sometime back, I wrote on ‘is and the ought.’ Apart from those, we have been provided with few false choices during these two years. A shining example – “have four kids or else…”

Cherry Picking:

Savarkar sympathizers quoting Gandhi, to their own convenience. The irony died multiple times in the past two years.

Classical Conditioning:

If you are against this government or its policies, you are termed you know what by you know who. What happened and is happening to the NGOs and the activists in Chatisgarh is beyond comprehension.

Common Man:

Remember the photo ops – worshipping parliament, crying in central hall, posing with broom. These appeal to the common folks, just like you and me. And by the way what is wrong with it? Nothing, if they are true and honest and we know now those are not. When you work actively to topple elected government, your empty symbolism is sheer waste.

Cult personality:

My favourite. There is nothing wrong in personality but everything wrong with Cult personality. Name a person in India who has used mass (and social) media to have cultivated idealized, heroic and worshipful image? The never-wrong image fuels the followers and in turn feeds the person as well.

Demonizing the enemy:

Remember the Hitler and Akbar comparison by a dimwit? Libtards sounding bastards to refer liberals. Presstitute sounding prostitute or press? These are sub-human and at once demonizes all opponents.

Dictat:

Indian Prime Ministership is supposed to be first among equals. There has never been a PM apart from Nehru who personified this. However, there was nothing called as Dictat from the last PM. But now, there are Diktats – Yoga Day on Ramzan, Good Governance day on Christmas etc. With short term memory, we forget the burqa diktat in one Jaipur rally of BJP and yea, asking colleges to send pupils to its Mhow rally.

Disinformation:

Dadri. JNU and Hyderabad University. Created false records, forged video to convince us of some untruth. This also has extended to conceal truths by censorship. Udta Punjab is a case in point and not the end of it. Kerala – somlia comment. Amit Shah showing a Sri Lanka kid’s pic with the words “God’s own curse”

Euphoria:

Circa 2014. Need say more? Or all the NRI meets.

Exaggeration:

Modi lied about paying off Gujarat’s debt before and he lied about 15 lakh per person on black money. And I am waiting and so are crores. These are all classic case of exaggeration which are allowed only to poets and if politicians use this licence they have one word for it – LIARS!

Fear, uncertainty and doubt:

With demonization and name calling, few sections of society are left in fear. They have to prove everytime that they are innocent and the starting point of any debate is under the assumption that they are guilty.

Flag-waving:

After 6 decades of independence we are left with a debate on nationalism and patriotism. Now, we are expected to prove our patriotism first when we debate the idiots and foxes in power. To provoke nationalism is one thing, it can harness good in a society but the flag waving group is certainly not doing for it.

Guilt by association:

You are associated with congress, yes you are guilty and anti-national. Well, when they cross the river and come over to BJP, their sins are cleansed by Ganga jal and are reborn. Assam to Uttarakhand to Arunachal we have seen it all.

Half truth:

“Despite being Muslim….” That’s how a minister referred to Late APJ Abdul Kalam. He was a Muslim, yes, no denying that but ‘despite’?

Intentional Vagueness:

This government is a master in not disclosing facts and trumpeting on motherhood statements. Take for example BJP-PDP alliance. Or for example the Naga accord. What are the specifics? What have we conceded or accepted to? Bharat Mata is worshipped but “afforestation commitment” and “Forests Rights Act” certificate have been removed for miners!

Labelling:

Aadarsh Liberals. Libtards. Sicklar. Presstitutes. Barmaid.

These are easy, simple, deceptive, meaning less but enchants the crowd. (Bhakt is a praise and cannot be called as pejorative.)

Managing the news:

As Arun Shourie said, this government is managing the news and not the economy. What we are given now are recurrent themes – “under threat,” “love jihad,” “illegal migration,” “fastest growing” and acronyms and abbreviations for endless recycled policies and schemes. But actions on those? Never mind.

Minimization:

Dadri. It was not a cow. No, wait. It was a cow. So killing is justified. An unjustifiable position is justified. Go online and see comments and feedback on Godhra and the answer is glaring.

Name calling:

Should it be elaborated? How many facts based arguments have we seen in the past two years? Every issue is twisted to make it emotionally suitable to a point of view, to an agenda, to a predisposed conclusion. Oh! And don’t forget a former general calling some Dog. Behold, Sickulars!

Oversimplification:

Pakistan, China and the like. We have seen and heard solutions to all. We have seen and heard the past government being (rightly) criticized for handling these issues and were offered “56 inch.” But what have we seen? ISI has visited our Air Base, China came in last week, Nepal screwed and no, we love Africans (but only one of our CMs has a reservation about Nigerians). Results? A big big zero.

Rationalization:

How many reasons have we been offered for completely indefensible acts?

Scapegoating:

Oh yea. Blame it on Nehru. Blame it on Congress. Blame it on Mughal Rule (note: not on British Rule). But I am incapable to providing solutions or answers. All I can do is blame the past. And no, don’t question me on my work. Because, I am a patriot.

Also, keeping a one arm distance, the ‘fringes’ are offered as scapegoats whereas they are perfectly in line with the mind-set and ideology of the ruling dispensation.

Stereotyping:

NGOs are foreign national plant. Christians are converting beasts. Most of the supporters actually believe this garbage. And no, I need not say anything about their thoughts on Muslims. A quick stroll through whom the PM ‘follows’ in Twitter will give a glimpse of the stereotyping.

Testimonial:

In March, 2016, BJP tweeted a purported quote of Mahatma Gandhi praising Savarkar. However, when I tried searching a lot, I couldn’t find a quote.

Third Party technique:

Another testimonial came in the form of WikiLeaks which praised Modi as corruption free. Remember? That was also a lie. An organization which is respected and hated worldwide was quoted without any authentication or permission and self-glorified itself.

Unstated Assumption:

One follower, a famous one at that said “When pest control is done at homes, cockroaches, insects etc come out. The house gets cleaned up.” What is the implication? Eradication of all who are opposing this government of us? Or even if they oppose what is the written law, so what? The unstated assumption here is that like Hitler used vermin, he had used it and threatened whoever is opposed to whatever this government thinks it as right. So did he propose a ‘final solution’ to the problem?

Virtue words:

Truth alone triumphs

The world is one single family

Non-violence is the topmost Dharma

Let good thoughts come from everywhere

All spiritual paths are treated equally

“Sahana bavathu… let there be no hostility”

These were pre-2014 words of Modi’s Idea of India.

As recently as last week, we have seen the double message – Vikas from PM and Kairana from the planner.

So why are all these necessary? What are these random phrases? These are phrases which define any propaganda machinery. Their methods, techniques and their ways. Its hard to see things in isolation but when you connect the dots, you have it all.

Without knowing and without being obvious, what we are seeing and living with is a propaganda machinery at work. We can’t search for a plan, a blueprint. What we are left with are actions on ground, inferences glaring at our face, wanting to take note and stand up and raise our voice.

Why was the prose kept very simple? Because someone in the past said that propaganda must be kept simple.

What is Propaganda?

The dictionary describes it as “information, especially of biased nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.”

What will this trend lead to?

People who have the power also have the responsibility to do. In our case, we have the power to resist such schemes, manipulations and twisting of facts. If we stand and watch silently, if we think that this has not happened to me so it will never happen to me, I leave you with these wise words of Niemoller.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Dissent, debate and disagreement are cornerstones of a vibrant democracy. By using the techniques of propaganda, the ruling party and its affiliated ‘parivar’ are undermining it. Brick by brick, the edifice of our democracy is being eroded in front of our eyes and we are remaining mute spectators.

If we think, this will not happen to India, just because this is India, we are either living in fools’ paradise or utterly stupid.

Wake up, its propaganda!

Originally published here