Following the UIDAI's decision to file an FIR against a journalist Rachna Khaira of The Tribune for shining a torchlight on a massive breach in the Aadhaar database, American whistleblower Edward Snowden has taken to his Twitter account to show his support for the journalist.
A report in The Tribune, on Thursday, revealed that access to any Aadhaar holder's details could be gained, through a mere payment of Rs 500, via an anonymous service on Whatsapp. As per the report, the payment allowed the person to be designated as an 'agent', which in turn granted him access to the grievance redressal system.
Snowden who had himself been a victim of government hounding, for exposing a massive surveillance programme run by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US, stated that such journalism should be awarded rather than investigated. The strongly worded tweet saw the American claim that the Indian government has gone on the defensive rather than reforming its policies.
The journalists exposing the #Aadhaar breach deserve an award, not an investigation. If the government were truly concerned for justice, they would be reforming the policies that destroyed the privacy of a billion Indians. Want to arrest those responsible? They are called @UIDAI. https://t.co/xyewbK2WO2
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 8, 2018
Based on what we know from previous reports, a UIDAI official filed a complaint against The Tribune for running the story and named its reporter Rachna Khaira in an FIR. Snowden also pointed out that UIDAI authorities are the ones that need to be arrested if the people really want justice for the loss of privacy of a billion Indians. This, however, is not the first time Snowden has spoken on the Aadhaar breach revelation. The American whistleblower had taken to Twitter a day after the story was uncovered. Here's what he had to say then.
It is the natural tendency of government to desire perfect records of private lives. History shows that no matter the laws, the result is abuse. https://t.co/7HSQSZ4T3f — Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 4, 2018
The safety regarding data collection and storage by the UIDAI for issuing Aadhaar cards has been under question since the beginning of its implementation. Every time there is a loophole discovered which lets one access Aadhaar details of citizens, UIDAI has a standard boilerplate response that the biometric data is safe. But with instances such as searching through demographic databases by googling Aadhaar numbers, it is not surprising that a lot of citizens are skeptical of linking Aadhaar numbers with all and sundry services that the government asks of them.
The worst part is, instead of plugging in glaring loopholes, UIDAI does a cop out by filing cases against journalists who are bringing to light the practices that could make Aadhaar data available to unauthorised entities. In the past too, UIDAI had filed a case against a CNN-News18 journalist. Improving the security of Aadhaar should be the top priority for UIDAI, instead it is more content with shooting the messengers, as has been observed in the case of The Tribune and CNN-News18 journalists.
As Snowden mentions in his tweet, "Want to arrest those responsible? They are called @UIDAI". This is something worth pondering over for UIDAI officials who are filing cases against journalists.