1. Project cost is too high: “Spending Rs 1.5 – 2.0 lakh crores on a project like this is not justified in a poor country.”
ThinkUID: The total cost will be about Rs 18,000 crores, nearly 1/10th of Civil Society estimates. Even by most conservative estimates, the project's direct savings will recover this cost in four years. Please see our article on "Cost of the UID project" for more details.
2. Technology is not reliable and will lead to exclusion: “A biometric project of this scale and magnitude is untested and unlikely to work, and will leave out as much as 15% of the population.”
ThinkUID: Aadhaar is now the leading biometric database in the world and has demonstrated unprecedented enrollment accuracy of 99.86%. The other 0.14% are enroled through an exception handling process. It is clear that no one will be excluded for technology reasons. Related articles: @thinkuid: UID Biometrics; @planetbiometrics: Iris recognition - the saviour...; @economictimes: Aadhaar is an object of attention.
3. Sensitive biometric data can be stolen: “Private and foreign agencies can access sensitive personal information such as biometrics.”
ThinkUID: In a recent interaction with the media, the UIDAI has reviewed its data security protocol and emphasized that data encryptions and separation of biometrics from other personal information makes it virtually impossible for anyone to access usable information. A related article Can foreign agencies access Aadhaar data? and several news reports are available on our site.
4. Data will be misused: “Aadhaar will allow massive violations of personal privacy and misuse of data.”
ThinkUID: Item #3 addresses how the UIDAI protects its data; the NPR data is available only to government agencies; the IT Act and related rules do cover the privacy of data in the hands of private agencies. However, in the absence of a comprehensive privacy law, there is a need to address these concerns comprehensively. The UIDAI must ensure that all agencies that have access to Aadhaar numbers comply with basic data privacy principles. Civil Society must push for a National data privacy law that reconciles the conflicting pressures of the Right to Information with the Right to Privacy. Our article UID and data privacy discusses this subject.
5. Silos are better than ‘data convergence’: “The ability to link various databases using Aadhaar as the key makes it easier to profile a person”
ThinkUID: This objection seeks to put unrealistic fears of a small minority ahead of the dire need to link various government databases to better manage services delivery. Clearly, there is a need to link various databases so that citizens are not made to run from pillar to post providing the same information and copies of it to every conceivable government department and service provider. The argument fails to distinguish between desirable convergence and undesirable convergence (also see Item #4). We have published an article Data silos are good?, Data convergence is bad that addresses this topic in some more detail.
6. Using Introducers to enrol the ID-less is a ‘security’ concern: “Use of Introducers [i.e. pre-authorized persons of repute or authority] to enrol those without acceptable documents is a national security issue.”
ThinkUID: This Home Ministry concern is without much merit -- the NPR process too has no reliable method of distinguishing illegal immigrants from citizens. Both the NPR and the UIDAI are promising 100% enrolment; so, if either one has a better way of enroling the ID-less, we will surely cheer them on! In our mythbuster article "UID is a threat to national security" we discuss this issue.
7. The problem with PDS is not lack of ID, but it is eligibility: “The UIDAI is focusing on the wrong issue – the problem with PDS lies in improper identification of beneficiaries; or it can be fixed easier/cheaper by tracking subsidized food grains on the move (e.g., GPS tracking and supply-chain management)”
ThinkUID: This is not a zero sum game! We do not dispute that there are massive errors in identifying the right beneficiaries (‘wrongful exclusion’) as well as other lacunae in the system as a whole. However, we still need a dependable method to tie personal identity (which is permanent) to eligibility (which can change over time), especially in the context of the new National Food Security Bill; and we still need a consistent way to eliminate ghosts and duplicates that are aplenty. A Deccan Chronicle article "Fake Cards are depleting the state exchequer" as well as our news report are relevant reads.
8. Aadhaar is not a panacea: “UID can’t fix all that is wrong with PDS.” “UIDAI is exaggerating its benefits to MGNREGS.” “The problem is not with last mile authentication.” “Technology is not the answer.” etc.
ThinkUID: Yes, Aadhaar is not a panacea. Even though the UIDAI has continually emphasized that it is only an enabler, such objections keep coming from highly respected Civil Society leaders as well as from within the government itself. Our view is that any specific responses today would be speculative (‘our words against theirs’). Only the UIDAI’s actual performance on the ground can provide the real answers. Relevant reading: Our mythbuster article Technology is not the answer -and- a news report on the best way to answer the criticism, by deliving results.
9. Hasn’t worked in the UK, so why should it work here?: “When a biometric-based national ID has not worked in an advanced country like the UK, why try it in a country that is not ready for it?”
ThinkUID: This question has outlived its currency as we now have enough experience within India to make judgments based on our own unique circumstances (see Item #2). A far more useful exercise, however, would be to follow the Mexican and Indonesian biometric ID projects (which we intend to do), as they more closely parallel our conditions.
10. Aadhaar will make the poor poorer: a)“Aadhaar will be mandated for welfare services and will therefore exclude many poor and marginalized people”; b) “The real motivation behind Aadhaar is to eliminate fakes and duplicates, which will provide the government an excuse to reduce subsidies, rather than increase the coverage of the poor.”
a) The stated aim of Aadhaar (and the NPR) is to enrol 100% of usual residents; however, we do share the concern that millions of ID-less may be left out (see Item #6), unless Civil Society groups stop being bystanders and start proactively demanding that the poor be enroled on a priority basis. If they don't, the UIDAI’s focus will be predominantly directed by the priorities of state government officials (Please read our related article UID and the Civil Society);
b) This sounds like a back-handed vote of confidence in Aadhaar’s ability to clean up welfare systems; but seriously, it is not an unreasonable fear that the government may place more emphasis on eliminating ‘wrongful inclusion’ than going out of its way to address those who are being left out. This is all the more reason why Civil Society should work harder to enrol the ID-less and start envisioning Aadhaar applications to help the poor – once the states start tying Aadhaar numbers to eligibility status (SC/ST, BPL, Priority, etc.), it will provide much better clarity as to what the states are up to. Such visibility will also provide a powerful tool to NGOs, in conjunction with the RTI and the National Food Security Bill, to advocate on behalf of the poor.