I Don’t Know Who I Am…

…and so need the government to tell me what my name, sex, address, marital status, and identification marks are on a little plastic card (UID card)…Not only that, I also need them to tell me what my fingerprints and I look like on the same little card…Look at it this way, I am 37 years old and if I don’t know who I am by now, I obviously don’t care and therefore I’m better off not knowing…And anyway, why would I want the government to tell me all about myself? My parents already did that when I was young and I trust them more than a faceless bureaucrat sitting in a stinky office …Yes, I really don’t trust those government types…Years ago, when the EC first introduced voter cards, I was told that I was older than my mother and my name was Shivaji and not Sraboney…This confused me so much that I’m still in therapy for it…

“Just think of the advantages,” says Dr. Manmohan Singh, “if some idiot at a party asks you who you are, all you have to do is flash your UID card…You wouldn’t have to waste your breath introducing yourself…And if the information is wrong, well, all the better for you…”

Since I don’t live in a police state (as yet), I think I have the right to retain control of the information that goes on the UID card…Name, DOB, address are all OK but why would I want strangers to know my credit rating and body measurements? I don’t want an asinine telemarketer calling me up and saying, “Hey, we got your details from your UID and we have the right underwear to fit your body type…”

Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Nandan Nilekani, please tell me why you need to know where I eat and and shop? If I shop at Shopper’s Stop, will that make me a terrorist or a fraud? What are your motives really?

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20 thoughts on “I Don’t Know Who I Am…

  1. Actually, the actual information on the card isn’t what’s dangerous. Only the name, D.O.B, gender, address and parents identification will be present – but even that’s a bit much if you ask me.

    The real danger is when the hospital knows your financial status from your bank which in turn knows where you work from your employer since all these can link up their services with the UID. That’s what I’m afraid of.

    And what if tomorrow we’re supposed to give our UID number to enter a theatre? Or to prove our identity if some policeman on the road thinks of asking us? Can any idiot just demand to know who we are? And are we willing to pay this heavy price for some dubious notion of “security?”

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    • Different sites say different things…Some say bank accounts, property, phone nos. etc. will also be included…Sounds a bit off though…If phone nos. including mobile nos. are included, security agencies could easily find out from the service provider who people are talking to…Imagine how easy it would be for a rogue policeman to harass an individual…

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  2. I think all the cases of exploitation that you have mentioned are anyway occurring without a UID.

    Because whether you need a mobile connection or a or a driving license you have to provide some proof for your identitity, which is (usually) not fake. If the rogue policeman wants to simply harass you, can’t he find your identity without UID from your mobile service provider?

    I could not understand how a UID could lead to extortion? Each time you make any kind of electronic transaction, its particulars could be obtained from the concerned bank, provided they reveal it. The only difference that a UID would make is instead of providing attested photocopies of your passport/voters’ ID/driver’s licence/PAN card, etc., now you will be able to quote your UID number. This info would help a lot those below poverty line. For example, they do not get their share of rationing because some Babu would steal that through fraudulent means. This would be prevented.

    Yes, if they get the info on UID wrong, there could be trouble. But it seems times have changed, & such errors might not occurs because of greater computerization. The process would a systematic one – like they use for getting passports made.

    The risk is not because of UID, but because of automatic electronic interlinking of details of your activities. But as I said all these are anyway occurring even without UID.

    The same UID will improve many things, too.

    Any kind of fraud would be now very difficult to execute. As more & more transactions become electronic, tax evasion & bribery would reduce. Illegal immigrations would become truly illegal. Others will not get to vote on your behalf. Paper work would be reduced (imagine, instead of having to fill in your name, DoB, mother’s name, fathers, name, husband’s name, you’ll have to just provide a set of unique numbers/characters for any application).

    I do not think ‘biometric info’ the kind you’ve mentioned would be there on the card! 😉 Because such statistics keep on changing.

    I think there’s a lot more to gain with use of such card, then there are risks.

    The most attractive feature as far as I see is such card could enable a form of direct democracy & online voting:

    http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/2009/11/direct-democracy-in-india-possibility.html

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    • Ketan,

      As I have said earlier, having just the basic information like name, DOB etc. is not the problem, the problem is with convergence…At the moment, information is available separately and is held in separate databases… The system as it is now works on a need-to-know basis; we give as much information as is required to a range of agencies for them to do their jobs …The passport office does not need to know how many bank accounts I have or whether I drive a car…Similarly, the telephone company does not need to know if I have a passport or not…The police do not need to know how often I travel, not unless I am a suspect anyway…It is this that allows some privacy in this new electronic world…The UID will connect all these separate pieces of information and take away an individual’s control of what he or she wants to share with whom…

      The UID is not a benign ID number; it is a way of tracking people and this is what concerns me…

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      • It does not look like they’re going to provide such data as bank accounts, travel details, etc.:

        “The authority will aim at providing a unique number to all Indians, but not smart cards. The authority would provide a database of residents containing very simple data in biometrics.”

        I guess this will only prevent people from holding passports, bank accounts, driving licenses, under multiple fraud names & DoBs.

        Biometric info would be restricted to height, one of the thumb prints & at most some identity mark, I guess.

        A single thumb print cannot be left at crime scene to frame someone. Yes, if they demand prints of all ten digits then we need to worry. 😦

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        • http://andhrabusiness.com/NewsDesc.aspx?NewsId=UID-pilot-project-in-Anantapur;-10-000-cards-issued.html

          http://www.thehindu.com/2010/04/09/stories/2010040963021000.htm

          Take a look at the links above…In the pilot project in AP, iris-based UID cards were issue…Biometric information included were fingerprints of all 10 fingers and iris scans…Also, included were personal information such as assets, amenities and income…

          “The database will be shared with UIDAI and NATGRID (National Intelligence Grid) connecting 11 security and intelligence agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, Central Bureau of Investigation, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, central boards of excise and customs and of direct taxes, Narcotics Control Bureau, etc.

          NATGRID, to be established by May 2011, will provide security agencies real-time access into 21 categories of databases — including bank account details, credit card transactions, driving licences, and visa and immigration records. An intelligence official has been quoted as saying: “Once you feed in a person’s name, you’ll get all the details about him, across all the databases.” These include the colour of his/her car, the outstanding traffic fines to be paid, and the last time he/she paid by card for a late-night dinner with a friend. “There really will not be any secrets from the State.” (http://news.rediff.com/column/2010/apr/09/big-brother-is-watching-you.htm)

          The government is also licensing credit information companies (CICs) under the Credit Information Companies (Regulation) Act 2005 to develop consumers’ credit profiles based on their transaction history from banks, NBFCs, telecoms and insurance companies…CICs will use UID numbers to collect and collate this information…

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          • Thanks, Sraboney for the links!

            If what’s written in Rediff is true, then the situation is indeed frightening. But well, the entire article seems to be written with an intent to scare – not exactly wrong ‘cuz it was meant to sensitize people to the risks.

            In one of the pics shown all the 10 finger prints were profiled, which is certainly not good, as it just might lead to wrongful framing of people through planting of finger prints. And moreover, could be misused wherever fingerprints would be the sold mode of identification – like starting laptops, as of now.

            Iris pattern should not be much of a concern.

            Apart from the biometric one, information collected would not be any different from that collected under census. And the card would be a smart card, on which very limited information would be provided.

            You could find all this in a very recent official press release here:

            http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=59907

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            • Thanks for the link…See, I don’t have a problem giving my details for identification purposes but if so many agencies have access to so much of my personal information, there could be trouble…And knowing Indians and human nature, this information will surely be misused…

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              • Sraboney,

                Yes, I fully understand the concern related to finances, travel details, ownership of vehicles, etc. But it looks like such info will not be available on the card, & I hope NPR’s registry would be secure enough. 🙂 But well, considering what all Chinese hackers had been able to access, this seems too optimistic. 😦

                But at least this once they are claiming to have a mechanism in place by which your name would not be Shivaji! 😛

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  3. “Years ago, when the EC first introduced voter cards, I was told that I was older than my mother and my name was Shivaji and not Sraboney”
    LOL 😀 My voter id came out with a photo of an 80 yr old woman 😐

    Me: Imagine if the UID cards have such problems…

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  4. Convergence of personal data is inevitable. Someone adept at digging online can glean all the information given to various agencies/service providers anyway. We can’t escape it. All the UID might do is accelerate the process. Unfortunately, abuse of this information is also inevitable. And it certainly won’t be unique to India. Crime/extortion does, after all, evolve with the times. Disturbing, but inescapable. And Ketan is right in pointing out that people fall victim to the corrupt cop/babu even in the absence of a UID.

    We’re not the first to be paying this price. In many countries a social security number gives the authorities a whole host of information on the person called up in the system. It might be intrusive, but is also a priceless tool in combating crime and terror. We keep griping when there are terror attacks, accusing the intelligence community and security agencies
    of incompetence and lack of coordination. But we also gripe when it comes to being part of a database that could really help them increase efficacy. We can’t have it both ways.

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  5. Good post. I think both you and Ketan has some valid points. Information can be used for good and bad uses. If there are not enough measures to prevent its misuse we may be in for trouble. Overall I welcome such new reforms as something is better than nothing

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  6. It can result in identity theft too. Btw even my dad’s name was horribly mutilated once & my photo was disfigured in my Voter’s ID (At first glance, photo looks male). I could relate when you said when you were still in therapy.. My sentiments exactly!!:-)

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