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American whistleblower Edward Snowden has tweeted his sharp disapproval of a police case against journalist who exposed gaps in the security of biometric details of millions of citizens recorded in the Aadhaar database.
In a post on Tuesday, the former US intelligence contractor came out in support of the journalist who reported that she could access personal details of over a billion citizens for just Rs. 500 paid through a digital wallet. Snowden also criticised the government for “policies that destroyed the privacy of a billion Indians”.
He tweeted: “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.”
Snowden has spoken against the Aadhaar earlier too. “It is the natural tendency of government to desire perfect records of private lives. History shows that no matter the laws, the result is abuse,” he had tweeted last week.
UIDAI, which oversees the world’s largest biometric identity card scheme, had gone to the police against the journalist from the Tribune newspaper and insisted there was no breach in its system.
Outrage over the case against the journalist forced an intervention by I-T minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and pushed the UIDAI to clarify that the case was not against any specific individual.
In a tweet, Mr Prasad asserted that the government supports freedom of press and that the newspaper and its reporter would be asked by the UIDAI to help investigate the alleged data breach.
“Govt. is fully committed to freedom of Press as well as to maintaining security & sanctity of #Aadhaar for India’s development. FIR is against unknown. I’ve suggested @UIDAI to request Tribune & it’s journalist to give all assistance to police in investigating real offenders,” the minister posted.
In a separate case yesterday, the Supreme Court, which is hearing a petition challenging the validity of Aadhaar, made it clear that politicians should “allow freedom of expression”.
Indian Newspaper Society expresses ‘serious concern’ over Aadhaar data breach FIR
The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) on behalf of its members on Tuesday expressed “serious concern” about an FIR against four people, including the Tribune newspaper and its reporter, lodged over the story on an alleged Aadhaar data breach.
“The President of INS Ms Akila Urankar, on behalf of the entire community of INS Members, expresses serious concern about an attempt to browbeat the reporter of Tribune who has courageously reported leak of crucial Aadhaar data. This report was eminently in the public interest. This is a brazen attack on the freedom of press and displays lack of respect for ethical media practices,” it said in a statement.
While the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had at first denied the breach, it later said that the “case appears to be an instance of misuse.”
While filing the FIR on Sunday, it clarified that it respects the freedom of press, but said that it was duty bound to name everyone involved in the incident, including the reporter.
“It does not mean that those who are named in the report are necessarily guilty,” it added.
The Centre too had on Monday reiterated its commitment to the freedom of press. It added that it would approach the newspaper and its reporter for their cooperation with the investigation.
“The government is fully committed to freedom of press as well as to maintaining security and sanctity of Aadhaar for India’s development… I’ve suggested UIDAI to request Tribune and its journalist to give all assistance to police in investigating real offenders,” IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had tweeted.
In a story published last week, The Tribune said that its reporter was sold all Aadhaar data available with UIDAI by a WhatsApp group for a mere Rs 500. The reporter received an ID and a password, which enabled her to access details of any Aadhaar number.
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