BENGALURU: Former CIA official and whistleblower Edward Snowden has said that the UIDAI has created a mass surveillance system with Aadhaar and warned that Indians could face a civil death given that Aadhaar is being linked to everything.
Snowden talked about the recent controversy where many Android phone users found the UIDAI helpline number had been added to their contact lists. Snowden said the UIDAI’s standard response to the scandals it has been plagued with shows how it’s about surveillance and not really about benefits.
“UIDAI said, ‘Oh, the phone number is wrong. Oh, it wasn’t us.’ But it’s the number that’s printed on the back of your card,” Snowden said. “They came back with, ‘It was Google’s fault. We don’t know what happened.’ They said, ‘But you shouldn’t use this to attack the system. It is wrong. It is saving you money. It is protecting people from being cheated, from people stealing benefits. And that’s all you need to worry about. Anybody who doesn’t agree with this system has vested interests, they are scare-mongering, don’t listen to them,'” he added.
S nowden, speaking via video-conference at an event in Jaipur, said it was scary that “people are creating mandatory enrolment that is forcing identity on people throughout the country to the point where you cannot have a child and get a birth certificate unless you provide your Aadhaar number. ”
He called for criminal action against enrolment agencies and private firms that misuse Aadhaar. “There should be criminal penalties assigned to any firm that seeks your Aadhaar number for a service that the government is not paying for, that is not directly funded for a social benefit. They should not just be fined, someone should go to jail for that,” he said. He also criticised UIDAI’s approach to criticism. “There is an unrelenting train of scandals about Aadhaar, and they should respond to this in a reasonable way. They should be addressing the criticism and reforming the system instead of saying any criticism of us is illegitimate, it is scare-mongering.”
He said the most dangerous deception of all is when the government tells you not to worry about privacy, data security or your rights. “Where did that argument originate from? And the answer is Nazi Germany. . But in a free society this is the opposite of the way it is supposed to work. You don’t need to explain why you have a right. You don’t need to explain why it’s valuable or why you need it.”
Snowden also debunked the idea that Aadhaar was meant to stop malpractice in the disbursal of social benefits. “If that were all that Aadhaar did, no one would have arguments against it. The problem is that it is being used for things unrelated to what the government is claiming they are for.”