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Aadhar: Challenges And Concerns

"Mera Adhaar, Meri Pehchan"

Adhaar, which can be in the simplest language, can be described as an individual's identity. More specifically a unique identity based on their demographic and biometric data. Paul Romer, the chief economist for the World Bank also described Aadhar as the most advanced ID program on the planet. In India, it is the largest biometric ID system, which is not a proof of citizenship, more accurately it is seen as proof of residence.

On January 28, 2009, India gave birth to the idea of the Aadhaar, The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) administration launched the Aadhaar project under the "Unique Identification Authority of India" (UIDAI) scheme. Each resident of India is given a 12-digit identification number called an Aadhaar by the Indian government. The UIDAI organization was established in 2009 by the UPA administration, and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani was named Chairman of the Aadhaar Project.

The Aadhaar card includes demographic information like the citizen's name, father's or mother's name, date of birth, sex, and address, as well as biometric information like a photograph, fingerprints, and information about the iris (eye).

Whether Aadhar Act violated privacy?
Criminal activity is one of society's crucial issues. The development of technical crimes is synchronous with technological advancements. Everything has both good and bad aspects. Technology has improved the quality of human life, yet there are drawbacks as well. There are many other types of cards that can be used to confirm someone's identity, including an election card, a driver's license, an office ID, etc.

And there was also a rise in crime. Financial transactions are made simple by e-banking, but crime, fraud, and the like also made their way there. As a result, people began stealing substantial sums of money from bank accounts.

The significance of Aadhar cannot be overstated because it holds the personal information of billions of individuals, and the security of both the system and the data it holds is a major political issue. The fact that Aadhar has been beset by several internal and legal issues, as well as significant breaches and flaws in the system's overall security, complicates the matter.

Some of the challenges and concerns are:

Internal leaks and problems

The multiple significant security flaws that have plagued Aadhaar's operations and made the system vulnerable to data leaks have been among the technology's most serious detractors. UIDIA has frequently had to take down bogus websites that keep surfacing, impersonating legitimate websites, and scamming users for personal information.

Almost 200 official government websites unintentionally exposed personal Aadhaar information in 2018, and the issue got so bad that one could easily access thousands of government databases containing confidential information by just Googling it. Due to unauthorized employees of the government accessing Aadhaar data, the Indian government was forced to restrict almost 5,000 officials.

The Tribune further stated that its reporters found an anonymous WhatsApp group offering to sell Aadhaar card details for as little as Rs 500 ($7.2 US). After the money was paid, the journalists were given the login details and username for a portal that made it simple to view all the data associated with that person's Aadhaar number. The Tribune calculated that over 100,000 persons had illegally accessed private Aadhaar information before this system vulnerability was patched.

Unawareness among people

It was previously said that we must provide a permanent address on our Aadhar cards and that we cannot change these facts afterward. That means those particulars, once. The option to change your address is now accessible. The rules and circumstances of updating the Aadhar details, however, are unknown to customers or the public. Owing to their ignorance, consumers must pay higher fees if they need to change their Aadhar information. They are billed somewhere between Rs. 50 and Rs. 200, even though the fee is not mentioned anywhere.

Vulnerability as a Substitute for Photo ID

Aadhaar has become India's most popular picture identity document because of the government's relentless campaign to integrate it with all fundamental services, a designation that has brought up several additional issues. Aadhaar was designed to be used for biometric authentication, in which a person's fingerprint or iris scan is compared with their Aadhaar number against a central database.

It was not intended to directly replace other kinds of identification. It lacks any standard security elements seen in other photo IDs, including a microchip, hologram, or official seal, making it more easily copied or falsified when used solely as a photo ID.

When RS Sharma, the first director general of the UIDAI and head of India's telecom regulator, tweeted his Aadhaar number to the public as a test of his faith in the system, the flaws in Aadhaar's security were made clear to the public. His Aadhaar number was used to access not only his personal information but also to build a fake Aadhar card that was approved as legitimate by Amazon and Facebook ad services and was used to start businesses in Sharma's name. The issue is made worse by the fact that most private and public institutions now require photocopies of Aadhaar as acceptable identity documents, which are subsequently stored on unsecured networks, increasing the possibility of misuse of this data.

Those who rely on banking correspondents (BC) equipped with biometric Aadhaar-enabled payment systems( AePS) are the most susceptible. BCs have frequently been discovered sharing data and worse with online crooks.

Author and privacy researcher V Anand also highlighted by tweeting that there is a store in Varanasi where you can buy full reproductions of your fingers and prints that have been covered in plaster of Paris to make them weatherproof. The clone market cannot be fixed by adding FIR+FMR.

A May 28, article in the Deccan Herald stated that thousands of bank transactions are bouncing due to difficulties relating to Aadhaar depriving citizens´┐Żparticularly farmers´┐Żof financial incentives under various government programs. Although they severely affect India's poorest citizens, these problems are hardly ever reported.

Centralization Power Issues

The central government of India controls and manages Adhar cards, which could lead to several centralization-related problems. Because the government is permissive in its manipulation of novel, unconventional laws that can negatively impact the populace.

Uneasy to Use

In India, more than a third of the population is illiterate, and those who are educated cannot understand or use an Adhar card properly. There are several geographical areas of the nation where Adhar card offices or centers have not yet been built.

Supreme court opinions:

Due to political polarization and opposition from the minority parties, the Aadhaar project initially continued without any genuine legislative support and was delayed in its complete implementation. The first legal issue arose in 2012 when oil firms successfully urged the UPA to require recipients of petrol subsidies to link their bank accounts to Aadhaar. The required clause was overturned by the Indian Supreme Court (SC), which ruled that no one should be denied access to any services because they do not possess an Aadhaar card, 2013.

The case of Justice Puttaswamy and Others v. Union of India and Others was brought in 2018 by the Supreme Court's constitutional bench, which rendered a 4:1 majority decision rejecting this claim challenging the validity of the Aadhar card. However, certain decrees that made citing an Aadhaar number a requirement has been overturned. A few clauses, including those relating to the disclosure of personal information, the identification of crimes, and the use of the Aadhaar ecosystem by private enterprises, were eliminated from the act. The SC abolished the need for bank accounts and SIM cards but allowed the required connection of an Aadhaar for tax return filing and access to welfare programs.

The Bench invalidated Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, which mandates the use of an Aadhaar for verification by private businesses and permitted businesses and people to demand an Aadhaar in payment for goods and services, which was also repealed.

The Supreme Court determined that the Aadhaar Act is a reasonable exception to the right to privacy because it serves a legitimate state goal and is proportionate.

Conclusion
Although there are significant privacy concerns, the legal structure should first be clarified and enhanced, allowing for frequent and fast policy updates. It does not seem like the Aadhaar innovation engineering was specifically designed to have strong defenses against such insider spills. We believe that an outside inspector under unfettered authoritative control is necessary for successful security against insider spills.

With such a setup, a few software engineering tools are available that can provide reasonable assurances for security and protection insurance, allowing Aadhaar to be made secure from an innovative point of view with the necessary effort. Biometrics can create trusted personas as well as an elevated level of protection risk. To fully comprehend the Aadhaar project's suitability, we believe informed and comprehensive discussion of the entire arrangement is required.

Thus, though, there are several drawbacks to using the Adhar card in India, due to some factors, it is working as a crucial tool for Identification. Gas subsidies, bank loans, election voting, etc., things are managed easily through Adhar Card. The efforts through UIDIA Project got maximum success in achieving the goal and targets of the project.

References:

  • The Aadhaar Card: Cybersecurity Issues with India's Biometric Experiment by MARDAV JAIN. https://jsis.washington.edu/news/the-aadhaar-card-cybersecurity-issues-with-indias-biometric-experiment/#_ftn19
  • Adhar Card: Benefits and Challenges in India by Bharti Satyanarayan, Loya Research Scholar, and Dr. BAMU, Aurangabad, and Dr. M.K. Thithe, Research Supervisor, Dr. BAMU, Aurangabad.

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