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In yet another major blow at the central government’s Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), American whistleblower-in-exile Edward Snowden on Sunday hit out at the Aadhaar card through a series of posts on Twitter. Terming Aadhaar as “an improper gate to service”, the former US National Security Agency contractor stated that the demands to link unique numbers with services “must be criminalized”.

Linking an online article written by former Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) chief KC Verma, Snowden wrote on Twitter, “Rarely do former intel chiefs and I agree, but the head of India’s RAW writes #Aadhaar is being abused by banks, telcos, and transport not to police entitlements, but as a proxy for identity–an improper gate to service. Such demands must be criminalized.”

Later in the day, Snowden linked a post tweeted by the UIDAI official handle on January 17 and replied to it depicting the flaws in the design of information flow with Aadhaar.

On January 17, UIDAI shared a post from its official Twitter handle, saying, “#Aadhaar is an identifier, not a profiling tool. Aadhaar database does not keep any information about bank accounts, shares, mutual funds, property details, health records, family details, religion, caste, education etc. #AadhaarMythBuster.” Snowden quoted this tweet and wrote: “That might be true if banks, landlords, hospitals, schools, telephone & internet companies were prohibited by law from asking for your #Aadhaar number. But any Indian can tell you they’re asked for their number by non-government entities–and those companies have databases too.”

Responding to the UIDAI tweet, Snowden said, “That might be true if banks, landlords, hospitals, schools, telephone & internet companies were prohibited by law from asking for your #Aadhaar number. But any Indian can tell you they’re asked for their number by non-government entities––and those companies have databases too.”

Snowden’s fresh jibe at Aadhaar came days after The Tribune reporter Rachna Khaira has depicted how anonymous sellers over WhatsApp were allegedly providing Aadhaar details for a fee. She claimed that Rs 500 and 10 minutes got an access to almost every detail of any individual submitted to the UIDAI – including name, address, postal code (PIN), photo, phone number and email.

UIDAI registered an FIR against the newspaper, its reporter Rachna Khaira and her sources: Anil Kumar, Sunil Kumar and Raj, the people contacted during the course of reporting under IPC Sections 419 (punishment for cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery) and 471 (using as genuine a forged document), as well Section 66 of the IT Act and Section 36/37 of the Aadhaar Act.

Coming out in support of the publication and its reporter, Snowden at that time tweeted that the journalist should be awarded and not probed for digging out the truth.

“The journalists exposing the #Aadhaar breach deserve an award, not an investigation. If the government were truly concerned for justice, they would be reforming the policies that destroyed the privacy of a billion Indians. Want to arrest those responsible? They are called @UIDAI,” wrote Snowden.

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