Some In India — Where The Government Intends To Bio-ID All, Both Small And Great — See ‘Big Brother’ Biometrics As ‘Eye Of American CIA’
The trouble with big brother’s eye
The company that will provide biometric solutions for the UID project employs former US intelligence officials. What does this mean for our security, asks Baba Umar
LAST YEAR, Tembhali, a hamlet of around 1,500 villagers in Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district, suddenly received a facelift — paved roads, painted walls and uninterrupted power supply. Not much was known about the village until 29 September when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi landed here to launch the world’s largest unique identity programme.
The idea was to create unique biometric identification cards for more than 1.2 billion Indians that will contain basic information such as name, a photograph, gender and date of birth plus a microchip to link the card to a biometric database that will have the cardholder’s fingerprints, iris scan, digital face image and address.
The project, which has already cost around Rs 3,170 crore, is slated to help the poor get access to welfare schemes and rid the PDS of grain diversion and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) of pilferage.
“The UID can be leveraged at various points in welfare schemes to improve the delivery systems by making them transparent and cost-effective,” says Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Director-General Ram Sewak Sharma.
However, for those working on issues of food security, migration, MGNREGA, civil liberties and human rights, the UID is an invasion of privacy, through which personal information will be stored in a database that could be used for profiling, tracking and surveillance.
And the involvement of companies such as American defence contractor L-1 Identity Solutions — which has names associated with the CIA and other US defence organisations in its top management — together with US-based Ernst & Young and Accenture raises queries about how much access they will have over Indian data.