UIDAI adds another security layer to Aadhaar --- your face
Face recognition for Aadhaar could be happening by July, the UIDAI said in a statement on Monday. The moves comes a day after former UIDAI director general, RS Sharma, rubbished rumours about any Aadhaar data breach
"The UIDAI is testing facial recognition. Service to be launched by 1 July 2018," the UIDAI said, adding that this will add an extra layer to create inclusive authentication for residents, especially senior citizens, facing difficulty fingerprints.
There is, however, a rider. The new feature, UIDAI said, will be allowed only in the fusion mode. Which means it will have to go along with one or more authentication factor --- essentially combining it with fingerprint, Iris or OTP for authentication.
This does not mean that you have to go to an Aadhaar centre again for authentication of face recognition details. The UIDAI will be tapping into its database for the feature. In fact, it will work with biometric device providers to integrate face modality into certified registered devices and also provide standalone registered device service as required by the ecosystem.
The UIDAI has already added extra firewall for privacy with virtual IDs and limited KYC. Apart from that it has in place a 'biometric lock' as an additional layer of protection against outside intrusions or breach.
This how you do it
The extent of Aadhaar usage can well be gauged from the fact that an average of 4 crore authentications are being done on a daily basis, while over 1,500 authentication have taken place so far. But not many know or perhaps use a feature called the biometric lock that allows a user to seal or lock their biometric information.
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User can ring-fence their biometrics by simply going to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) website or its app, and choosing the option and entering their Aadhaar number.
A registered mobile number is essential to avail this service.
A user can unlock for specific transactions and then lock the biometrics back again.
When residents enable biometric locking system, their biometric remains locked till the Aadhaar holder chooses to either unlock it (which is for a temporary period) or disable the locking system, an official said.
UIDAI CEO, Ajay Bhushan Pandey says that the idea behind the facility was to "rule out" possibility of anyone even attempting to misuse biometric information.
STATESMAN, JAN 12, 2018
The Iron Fist
The promptness with which a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against The Tribune and its reporter has brought into sharp focus the danger of pointing fingers at the Government. Had the priority of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) been to plug data leakage, the Authority would have called the reporter for a cup of tea and asked her as to how the “secure” UIDAI database was breached.
hereafter, UIDAI could have conducted a security audit to avoid future data leakages. Instead, the UIDAI has made a named FIR and the concerned minister has advised the lady reporter and the newspaper to cooperate with police investigations despite the negative connotation of the process in the hearts of ordinary Indians. Contrast this with the way the UIDAI ignores instances of government agencies publishing Aadhaar details of poor beneficiaries. No action has ever been taken, even contemplated, against such errant agencies.
Despite India being a democracy of long vintage, most of our laws are loaded in favour of the Government and against citizens; casting a multitude of responsibilities on citizens with no corresponding duties on the enforcers. In fact, in recent years there has been a trend to criminalise even routine and innocent activities, which I had pointed out in my article “Uniform Criminal Code” (11 December 2017). Such measures definitely deter public scrutiny of Government actions and decisions because except the truly bold, who would dare to highlight some inadequacy of the system, given the fact that he may be unwittingly transgressing some legal provision in the process? One of the few enactments which genuinely empower citizens, the Right to Information Act (RTI) has been in the crosshairs of the Government from the day it came on the statute book.
In fact, openness is something which all Government departments detest like the proverbial plague. Readers may remember that in June 2017, to avoid pointed questioning, the Election Commission moved a proposal which would have given it the power of punishing for contempt of itself. On the other hand, the Election Commission is not bothered about the thousands of cases filed for transgression of the Representation of the People Act during every election, which are routinely withdrawn or dismissed. The non-enactment of the Whistleblowers Act and the Lokpal Act has its own story to tell about non-implementation of the promises of transparency.
One would not mind the veil of secrecy which Government departments try to draw around themselves if these very departments were not tom-tomming their achievements at the same time. For example, the Income-tax Department repeatedly highlighted instances of tax evasion during demonetisation but it has never told us how much tax was collected after investigating the suspect deposits which (it says) run into lakhs of crores of rupees. Similar is the case of UIDAI, which claims to run an impregnable database but files an FIR for data theft negating its own claim of data safety in the process.
Consider, for a moment that we had genuinely citizen-friendly laws. Then we would not be faced with a situation where more than half the GST payers are not filing their returns. In ideal conditions, if any taxpayer faced any difficulty, he would have contacted his tax officer who would have helped him to comply with his legal requirements. However, in the present scenario tax payers have to pay full penalty before the GSTN website allows them to file their returns. The same is true for most of our laws; any person seeking assistance of the system or wanting to assist the system is deemed suspect. No wonder that the public and Government have a highly adversarial relationship in India.
The monolithic structure of the Indian Government, which disappointed Gandhiji, survives even today. Citizen-centric initiatives like the Guaranteed Public Service Delivery Act flounder because of bureaucratic apathy. The situation can be remedied only if we have a functioning judiciary and an active bureaucracy. Citizens have full rights in a democracy but they are not able to enjoy their rights because the bureaucracy repeatedly stonewalls citizens and the judiciary takes ages to take up their cases.
There can be a solution… admittedly a difficult one. Along with bureaucratic accountability, citizens have to fight for simpler laws which do not have the provisos and clauses making them unintelligible and unenforceable. A test case could be the Income-tax Act which should be simplified to the extent that an individual tax-payer can file his annual return of income on his own.
The way laws are drafted also needs a change; all enactments should provide for duties of the Government and its servants rather than the responsibility of citizens alone. After the Mumbai fire tragedy, restaurant owners were arrested for not following safety and building regulations whereas the personnel of the agencies which were constantly monitoring compliance by the restaurant owners have gone scot free. Vast tracts of Government lands are regularly encroached upon; sometimes illegal structures built on such encroached lands are demolished but the Government employees under whose watch the encroachment took place are never brought to book.
Such unequal implementation of the law makes the common citizen lose faith in the system. Knowing that he would gain nothing by insisting on his rights, he willingly pays bribes and works to distort the system. The outcome would certainly be different if all laws have incentives for the law-abiding and those helping in the implementation of the law. For example, in the USA tax-payers filing their return of income in time receive refunds within a week while in the absence of similar provisions, late filing and non-filing of income-tax returns are endemic problems in India. Again, compliance with any legal requirement is extremely difficult in India because a number of documents are required just to establish one’s bona fides. If we have laws that do not see everyone as a lawbreaker then perhaps we can have easier procedures ~ which will leave time to law enforcers to go after the really bad cases. As things stand, the common man has to go to great lengths for everything while the undeserving can get anything done easily. Hardened criminals are often caught with dozens of passports in different names while ordinary mortals have to labour for even one.
Ayn Rand summarised the situation nicely in Atlas Shrugged: “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted ~ and you create a nation of law-breakers ~ and then you cash in on guilt.”
The writer is a retired Chief Commissioner of Income-Tax.