India's Botched-up Id Project
Hardnews|March 2018

The SC verdict in the ongoing case to ascertain the constitutional validity of Aadhaar will have far-reaching consequences

Shalini Sharma

ON MARCH 12, a French hacker, who goes by the name of Baptiste Robert, claimed that over 20,000 Aadhaar cards were available online on both government and non-government websites for anyone to access, anyone with a computer. It is not the first time such a revelation has been made but it is timely as the Supreme Court is hearing a bunch of petitions challenging Aadhaar and is on its way to decide its constitutional validity.

Earlier, in the first week of January, a journalist working with the Tribune in Chandigarh had reported that, for ₹500, it was possible to ‘purchase’ access to the entire Aadhaar database for 10 minutes. The story had stirred a hornets’ nest and an uproar ensued after an FIR was filed against her by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). For any government working to create an electronic biometric identity database of this scale, such findings should act as cues to at least put the project on hold and order an independent audit. But here’s what the UIDAI did: on the day the French hacker regaled Twitterati by exposing flaws in the Aadhaar database, the UIDAI’s CEO, Ajay Bhushan Pandey, while speaking on a talk show, said with much pride that while attempts have been made from all around the world almost every day to hack India’s unique identification system, none of them has been successful so far. Whenever anyone has tried to flag the security flaws in the government’s ambitious project, the UIDAI has only been defensive in its response, dismissing such claims without feeling the need to look into them. In most cases, the problem has been ‘fixed’ by taking down such websites.

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