Skip to main content
xYOU DESERVE INDEPENDENT, CRITICAL MEDIA. We want readers like you. Support independent critical media.

The Attorney General, Aadhaar, and the PowerPoint Presentation

Vivan Eyben |
The AG raised the issue of leakages; the UIDAI spoke on the security of Aadhaar.

Image Courtesy: Indian Express

The Attorney General (AG), K. K. Venugopal, on March 21 and 22 submitted his arguments before the Supreme Court in the Aadhaar hearing. The AG’s main contention was that it is true that privacy is a Fundamental Right, but so is food and shelter. He submitted that Aadhaar enables benefits to reach the true beneficiaries. As well as the need to eliminate duplicate identities and eradicate tax evasion. However, on day 6 of the hearings, Shyam Divan had systematically attacked each of these points. The Supreme Court also allowed the UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan to submit a PowerPoint presentation to explain the technical aspects of Aadhaar in the second session on day 21, March 22.

The AG relied on reports from the World Bank and other international institutions. These reports had allegedly established a link between the possession of identity documents and a reduction in poverty. Shyam Divan had previously submitted that the percentage of people obtaining Aadhaar as their first identity document was minuscule. The AG also submitted that the Government incurred heavy losses due to leakages in the various social security schemes. However, Divan had already shown that leakages occur for three reasons; ineligibility of the beneficiary, fraud in the quantity disbursed, and identity fraud. Divan had shown that Aadhaar can only curtail the third cause for leakage. As for keeping the Government from incurring losses, Divan had referred to an unstarred question in the Lok Sabha where it was admitted that there was no reduction in the amount being allocated to the PDS. Hence, there is can be no question of ‘saving money’.

The UIDAI CEO’s ‘presentation’ submitted four points before the Court;

  1. The need for an identity and identification.
  2. The process for enrolment and authentication, and technology.
  3. Security aspects of Aadhaar versus smart cards.
  4. The uses and benefits of Aadhaar.

Under the features of Aadhaar, the UIDAI CEO submitted that Aadhaar is only an identity document and does not by itself confer rights, citizenship, or any entitlements. He mentioned that Aadhaar only collects the person’s name, address, gender, and date of birth. The presentation also listed the data not collected; religion, caste, tribe, language, records of entitlement, income or medical history, and profession. However, in India, a name can give away a person’s religion, caste or tribe, as well as to an extent language. The address can give away the language the person speaks. Therefore, despite not collecting the listed information directly, it can be inferred indirectly.

The CEO mentioned the high level of data encryption being used in Aadhaar. He stated that Aadhaar uses a 2048-bit data encryption using a PKI. This is claimed to be more secure than the 256-bit encryption which is more common. However, the 256-bit encryption was used in the infamous iPhone the FBI wanted to have access to. When Apple refused to crack the phone on the grounds of privacy, the FBI cracked it anyway. The questions whether the FBI had an insider help them, or whether they achieved it on their own are immaterial as an answer to either raises questions over the security of Aadhaar. If the FBI achieved it on their own, then it confirms that software and technology are constantly evolving, and the encryption requires constant upgrades. If the phone had been cracked with insider help, this confirms that the weakest link in any security system is a human being. There are multiple cases where confidentiality has been breached with regard to exams, or ‘official secrets, what makes the UIDAI any different?

Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.

Subscribe Newsclick On Telegram