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Government Privacy Science

India's Billion User Biometric Odyssey 81

Posted by samzenpus
from the scan-me dept.
mask.of.sanity writes "A bold new biometric identity system is being deployed across India in a bid to combat rampant welfare fraud. The mammoth system will collect the iris and fingerprint records on a voluntary basis of every one of India's 1.2 billion men, women and children. The Aadhaar project runs three trillion biometric identity matches every day — all on a small data center of commodity blade servers."
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India's Billion User Biometric Odyssey

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2013 @03:21AM (#45033345)

    This was rolled out 2 years ago.
    The intended use:
    When a unique ID is issued, you can optionally associate a bank account with it. Govt. will transfer welfare benefits directly to that account, "avoiding" corruption. Many are miffed by this as they stand to lose control over, benefit distribution and there by votes.

    System abuse scenario is plenty, as your iris scan, finger prints(all 10) are associated with the ID.
    Funnily, the ID states that this is only for identification, and not a document of citizenship.

    • by abhisri (960175) on Friday October 04, 2013 @06:10AM (#45033853)

      "Bid to control welfare fraud"... that is just the cover story, considering that the system is full of intentional loopholes and bugs. The real reason why the ruling congress party wants this, is due to its relying on the muslim vote bank. Muslims vote en masse in India, based on whichever party is promising more benefits to them, but as of yet muslim citizens of India are a minority in the country.
       

      Congress is trying to change this by using this scheme as a backdoor method of providing legitimate identity papers(and thus citienship) to millions of illegal muslim immigrants from neighbouring bangladesh and thus inflating their vote bank. The nearest oppositional rival party BJP has a more pro-hindu stance.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by bayankaran (446245)

        Congress is trying to change this by using this scheme as a backdoor method of providing legitimate identity papers(and thus citienship) to millions of illegal muslim immigrants from neighbouring bangladesh and thus inflating their vote bank. The nearest oppositional rival party BJP has a more pro-hindu stance.

        You made the most illogical and idiotic reasoning against AADHAR.

        Do you know how many illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are in India and where? Do you think even if all of them were given citizenship

        • by abhisri (960175)

          Do you know how many illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are in India and where?

          Your indignant vitroil and personal attacks aside, cannot answer where, but majority of them are located in slums in Delhi and Mumbai and other various major cities, and quite a few all over India. How many? As per census difference extrapolation and media reports the number is anywhere between 2 million to 20 million...

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegal_immigration_in_India#Bangladeshi_immigrants [wikipedia.org]

          Do you think even if al

            • An AADHAR card does not allow anyone to vote in an election.

              You are more than racist and xenophobic...you are also a total idiot!!!

              Like I said muslims vote en masse, unlike hindus.

              That takes the cake as far as argument goes.

              You are also saying Congress has this agenda to to give AADHAR cards to slum dwellers in Mumbai and Delhi who are supposedly Bangladeshi immigrants - and gets an advantage in the coming elections.

              What a crazy right wing propaganda? What next - Indian Christians are actually Italians in disguise?

    • The one metric that is nearly impossible to duplicate is the Colon Scan, why didn't they use that?

      I can't help but wonder if isn't some 3rd world religious thing?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The basic problem TFA starts with, is too much bureaucracy, too many different systems. Many people carry four redundant forms of identification. And now, they carry five, at least for the next few years.

    Worse, once this system is fully implemented and the other four are finally phased out... there's only one, with the useful property that if someone still manages to impersonate you (and they well might, there's a lot riding on the ability so they'll work something out) you've become a threat to the system

    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday October 04, 2013 @04:45AM (#45033627) Journal

      This is a country where family members might, and occasionally do, bribe the local clerk to have you declared dead of natural causes, so they can take over your land and other belongings. Biometrics can't solve that...

      WTF? That's the problem biometrics were designed to solve. Say my family asserts I'm dead and goes to court to claim their rightful inheritance. I turn up, press a grimy thumb on the judges notepad and say "match that", case closed! The idea that better identification makes it easier for someone to steal your identity is pure nonsense. The reason your example scenario doesn't happen regularly in the west is precisely because we already have well established systems to uniquely identify individuals, a practice that goes at least as far back as William the Conquer and his Doomsday book [wikipedia.org]

      If you don't have a reliable way to identify property owners then you can't have reliable property law. If you don't have reliable property law then you can't have capitalism. Of course, outside the west the unwashed masses often do not have any officially recognised ownership of the land they have lived on for centuries/millennia. That lack of legal recognition is the reason multi-nationals can and do buy/lease huge chunks of land from third world governments and then hire mercenaries to rid "their property" of "lawless vandals and trespassers".

      • "WTF? That's the problem biometrics were designed to solve."

        Just NO. This is quite wrong.

        That is the problem biometrics were INTENDED to solve. But all wishful thinking aside, so far nobody has been able to DESIGN a biometrics system that actually solves it.

        • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:34AM (#45033767) Homepage

          That is the problem biometrics were INTENDED to solve. But all wishful thinking aside, so far nobody has been able to DESIGN a biometrics system that actually solves it.

          Nirvana fallacy [wikipedia.org]

          Just because it doesn't solve the problem 100% doesn't mean it isn't damn useful.

          I'm not saying it isn't evil, but in India it may be the lesser of two evils.

          • "Nirvana fallacy"

            Nirvana ASSUMPTION. You read more into it than what I actually wrote.

            My point wasn't whether it was useful or not. I was criticizing GP for confusing "designed" with "intended".

            The fact is that biometrics is a woefully flawed science. As someone else pointed out here, no matter how well "designed", biometrics is actually a "username", not a "password". So no matter how well intended, OR how well designed, the concept is fundamentally flawed and can never work completely as intended.

      • by Muad'Dave (255648)

        How about, "Family gets corrupt sys admin to substitute the prints of a recently washed-up corpse in place of yours in this magic, perfect system. Your prints get linked with an known terrorist." What's going to happen when you scan your thumb in front of the judge again?

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday October 04, 2013 @04:59AM (#45033671)
      This is SERIOUSLY being discussed as just an IT issue, without any of the MASSIVE social and political issues involved?

      I'll pass.
      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        Yes, we are very interested in the forum you decide to use to discuss each and every angle on every piece of news you encounter on the internet.

        Feel free to present all that useful information in spreadsheet form.

        • "Yes, we are very interested in the forum you decide to use to discuss each and every angle on every piece of news you encounter on the internet."

          They key word in my post above was "just".

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday October 04, 2013 @03:35AM (#45033397)

    This system is guaranteed to fail. As I understand it, the problem it is meant to address is welfare fraud - criminals collecting the welfare of the poor for themselves.

    Best case, this works for a year or two as the criminals figure out how to spoof the biometrics. Maybe local gangsters force the poor people to give up their biometrics - take their prints and photos of their irises and then use copies (ala the recent iphone hack and the similar spoof via a photograph of the original iris). If the scanners at the welfare locations are manned, they just need to bribe the guy manning them into letting them use the spoofs. Undoubtedly the guy manning the system is going to be some low-paid peon anyway.

    • Wow. This needs to be modded up for the subject line, if nothing else. That's the best short analogy I've ever seen.

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      From what I remember from talking to some people working on it, it's common for many men in India to have multiple families and collect welfare for them, or collect it more than once. Even when this was first in place, apparently some had registered once with each eye. These could just be stories, but it's what I heard.

    • You got it wrong... (Score:5, Informative)

      by bayankaran (446245) on Friday October 04, 2013 @06:42AM (#45033995) Homepage
      If you are saying Biometric systems are not foolproof from a security perspective I agree. But if you extrapolate that to "biometric data used in Aadhar will make the scheme fail" - then you have no clue whatsoever about the existing system and how Aadhar uses biometric data.

      AADHAR replaces the existing archaic mostly pen and paper 19th century PDS models - Public Distribution Systems - usually through 'Ration Cards' - to deploy benefits.

      There will be some amount of fraud in any system which is used widespread. People lose their identity in the West. Social Security Numbers or Social Insurance numbers are misplaced or stolen or identity hijacked. But for all practical purposes they work as intended Your social security card is only a piece of green paper with your name and number...the number is your username. And you do not need a password.

      The Aadhar number is only a username. The photo of the person, the address together with biometric data are added. It is for identification, not to swipe and open a door!

      For the AADHAR system in India, the intentions and purposes of using biometric data is not security, but identification. And identification works on different levels, biometrics is only one of them. There is no village / town / city in India where you present a photo ID and a machine scans it and gives you benefits - there is a person behind the counter. Thats the first step. There are other checks and balances.

      Still, local rowdies might abuse the system. Some corrupt officials might misuse their powers and try to pocket the proceeds. But this is a change which the country needed.

      (As a side note: Most states in India give 25 kilos of rice to a family of four for Rs 1 a kilo - something like 0.016 cents a kilo - to anyone belonging to the Below Poverty Line (BPL) card holders. Some of the rice returns to the market when the BPL card holders sell the extra to local shops or hotels. No system can stop this nonsense!)
      • by adri (173121)

        Course they can. Dye the rice.

      • If you are saying Biometric systems are not foolproof from a security perspective I agree. But if you extrapolate that to "biometric data used in Aadhar will make the scheme fail" - then you have no clue whatsoever about the existing system and how Aadhar uses biometric data.

        So you are claiming that the intent of the system is not to combat fraud but to simply replace an old paper-based identification (not authentication) system? That's not at all what I remember reading about the system a few years back when they were trying to justify it.

        There is no village / town / city in India where you present a photo ID and a machine scans it and gives you benefits - there is a person behind the counter. Thats the first step. There are other checks and balances.

        Yeah, so now you are talking authentication, but all you've done is mention a human in the loop, which I already addressed in my original post. Perhaps you could elaborate on these additional "checks and balances" (which is not a term that

        • So you are claiming that the intent of the system is not to combat fraud but to simply replace an old paper-based identification (not authentication) system? That's not at all what I remember reading about the system a few years back when they were trying to justify it.

          Yes, one of the ideas behind the new system is "preventing fraud" - but its more than biometric data. "Preventing fraud" in the new AADHAR system does not equate to verifying identity using biometric data.

          For example, the new system will

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          So you are claiming that the intent of the system is not to combat fraud but to simply replace an old paper-based identification (not authentication) system? That's not at all what I remember reading about the system a few years back when they were trying to justify it.

          It's a bit more ambitious than that. It's to give EVERYONE an ID "card". Estimates vary but it's easily around 50% or more don't (usually people in the rural villages and such who are the ones who need the assistance, but don't get it).

          In Ind

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bain_online (580036)
      Well you got it wrong.

      Currently the ration card system we have is you buy your subsidized stuff (food, fuel) at govt stores and govt pays the trader. Huge chance of fraud and corruption.

      What adhar allows is even poor to have an unique identity (UID) verified by the govt. This very improtnantly enables them to get a bank account linked to your UID which is impossible today for the nomads and the below poverty line people since they don't have passports or driving licenses.

      The next stage of the process

      • The next stage of the process is that the poor now buy their food on open market and govt directly deposits all the subsidies available diectly to their adhar linked bank account.

        There must be more to it than that. How does the welfare recipient authenticate to the merchant? What's to stop a clerk at a merchant from duplicating the information the customer provides to authenticate? Seems like a point in the system where one individual could quite easily scoop up thousands of authenticators that could be used for all kinds of fraud.

        Who is responsible for fraudulent debits? The bank or the account owner? I'll bet 10:1 it is the owner, these no-frills accounts don't have enough ma

  • Voluntary Aussies (Score:3, Informative)

    by Baby Duck (176251) on Friday October 04, 2013 @03:40AM (#45033413) Homepage

    ... collect the iris and fingerprint records on a voluntary basis of every one of India's 1.2 billion men, women and children.

    It's voluntary yet records every one of 1.2B people? Either India is the most sheep-like country ever (unlikely), or this system isn't really voluntary. Is this like voluntary income tax in USA?

    The project would be a bold deployment for Australia, but for the second-most populous country in the world ...

    Australia, whaaa? F- this article!

  • ...nice! how technology pace invents new commodities ;-)
  • Tech details (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2013 @04:35AM (#45033605)

    They are able to scan 1M people in one day(!), so it takes over 3 years to scan all 1200M people.
    One scan takes about 5 megabytes, so 1200M scans takes 6000 terabytes:
    http://searchbusinessintelligence.techtarget.in/feature/Aadhaar-project-data-collection-An-interview-with-Mindtrees-CEO

    Architecture details:
    http://www.biometrics.org/bc2012/presentations/UIDAI/UID%20BSP%20update%20Kris%20ver%202%201040.pdf

  • Yeah, that's going to happen. 1.2 billion people. Every one of them will voluntarily hand over their fingerprints and eyeprints.

    Methinks either "voluntary" or "every one" is being grossly misrepresented here.

    Time for me to go to my voluntary re-education classes sponsored by the Ministry of Love.

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "Methinks either "voluntary" or "every one" is being grossly misrepresented here."

      Not at all. You, for example have to give them 'voluntarily' a specimen of your signature, which is also important and can be used to fleece you when you want a password, a driving license, a gun permit, unemployment benefits, a bank account, a marriage license and so on.

      I bet you didn't think twice and you didn't ask a privacy counselor first.

    • by gsslay (807818)

      It's amazing how voluntary becomes compulsory if the only other option is to steadily become a non-person, with no access to anything provided in your society.

      Voluntarily conform, or go live in a cave as a beach-comber.

  • That's some first-rate volunteering, that is.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      With 33% of the population below the poverty line (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_India) I'd wager at least 400M might have been Johnny-on-the-Spot to sign up, if only so they can get their welfare payments. I.e. get their welfare payments, e.g., without having to bribe someone to give them what's theirs.

      In other news, 85% of the population have already signed up. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/AADHAAR) That is truly some first rate volunteering. Perhaps you need to go there and experien

  • by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus&gmail,com> on Friday October 04, 2013 @08:07AM (#45034315) Homepage Journal
    1.2 billion fingerprint in a government-controlled database. In India, for crying out fucking loud. What could possibly go fucking wrong ?
    • When Adobe was compromised they just got credit card numbers and source code. When this system is cracked the users will lose their eyes and fingers.
  • by Guru80 (1579277) on Friday October 04, 2013 @08:13AM (#45034347)
    Not sure you can voluntarily collect ALL without "making an offer he can't refuse"
  • This project is life changing for a billion people. By the end of the decade and into the next decade its effect on Indian society and the economy will become clearly visible. Such projects have great challanges to overcome and there will be some cases of fraud but it will be on a substantially smaller scale than currently happens.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      of course, devolving into a police state with government tracking every minute detail of the citizens lives to have absolute control over them is not a possible outcome

  • 400 million are enrolled with 25 million enrolled last month alone. The program is radically changing the distribution of benefits to many people who were promised them but never saw the access. Many people discuss the ability to fake the biometrics and while there are chances of this occurring it is a fairly complex process and by changing the systems so they are only transferring cash direct to accounts controlled by the individual rather then relying on someone else to be an intermediary creates a lot o

  • by indagame (3401091)
    Omg, one billion? It is not real.

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