CIA may have access to Aadhaar data, claims WikiLeaks report, govt denies
New Delhi: A report published by a geopolitics-focused news magazine portal, GreatGameIndia News (GGI News), on Thursday claimed, quoting a WikiLeaks report, that the company that provided devices to record biometric data for Aadhaar may have compromised the sensitive data.
According to WikiLeaks, United States’ top intelligence agency, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is using tools devised by US-based technology provider Cross Match Technologies Inc. to cyber spy.
Cross Match Technologies, provider of biometric identity solutions received certification from the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in 2011. It was one of the first suppliers of biometric devices for Aadhaar data collection. UIDAI is the statutory body overseeing the data procurement for Aadhaar.
According to WikiLeaks, the CIA conducts covert operations under the project name ‘ExpressLane’ to snoop on other services like National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “The OTS (Office of Technical Services), a branch within the CIA, has a biometric collection system that is provided to liaison services around the world—with the expectation for sharing of the biometric takes collected on the systems,” says a release from WikiLeaks, issued on Thursday.
Official sources from the government, however, denied the claims, the Times of India reported on Saturday.
Government officials said that the claimed ‘leak’ is not possible as vendors receive data in an encrypted form which is then transferred to Aadhaar servers. “The reports do not have any basis in fact. Aadhaar data is safely encrypted and is not accessible to any other agency,” the report quoted official sources as saying.
There are more than 1.17 billion Aadhaar card holders in the country.
On Friday, WikiLeaks had tweeted: “Has the CIA already stolen India’s #Aadhaar database?” linking to an article in GGI News article.
GGI News was first to do a story on it describing “How CIA Spies Access India’s Biometric Aadhaar Database.”
“The OTS (Office of Technical Services), a branch within the CIA, has a biometric collection system that is provided to liaison services around the world—with the expectation for sharing of the biometric takes collected on the systems. But this ‘voluntary sharing’ obviously does not work or is considered insufficient by the CIA, because ExpressLane is a covert information collection tool that is used by the CIA to secretly exfiltrate data collections from such systems provided to liaison services,” WikiLeaks mentioned on its website. It further described how ExpressLane processes the spy work for CIA.
An email sent out to Cross Match Technologies remained unanswered.
Coincidentally, the report was published on the same day when the Supreme Court held that privacy is a fundamental right under the Constitution with reasonable restrictions, a landmark decision that could affect the unique identification programme under which biometric data of citizens is collected.
The government is also in the process of drafting data protection legislation and has appointed an expert group headed by former Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna to do this.
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