Safety and Security

Snowden Backs Journalist Who Exposed India’s Aadhaar Breach

Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower, is calling on the arrests of the people behind the breach of India’s biometric ID system, Aadhaar.

According to a report in BuzzFeed, in a series of tweets, Snowden said the journalist who broke the news on the breach should be awarded, not investigated. He also called on the Indian government to arrest those who were responsible for the breach.

Rachna Khaira, a reporter for India’s Tribune newspaper, said she paid $8 in exchange for access to the information of close to 1.2 billion people in the Aadhaar database. That story resulted in the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) launching a criminal complaint.

In an interview with BuzzFeed, the reporter said, “I am happy that the concerns relating to the Aadhaar program are being highlighted internationally. Mr. Snowden’s tweet validates my report, and I thank him for highlighting these concerns.” The move on the part of UIDAI to file a criminal complaint in response to the report prompted outcries in India, with government critics contending that the government was trying to silence the press.

Last week, the government of India said it had started looking into a report that a database with information on its more than 1 billion citizens was being sold online. UIDAI, which is in charge of the biometric identity card scheme, told Reuters it appeared to be a case of misuse, but that crucial data, such as biometric information, was “safe and secure.”

“Mere display of demographic information can’t be misused without biometrics,” UIDAI said in a statement. The agency also said that access to bank accounts required more authentication via fingerprints and iris scans.

The breach is just the most recent controversy surrounding a program that has raised the ire of privacy advocates. The Supreme Court in India is currently holding hearings to decide if a push to link the database to private and public services would violate individuals’ privacy rights.

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