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Government and Political Conspiracies


Throughout time, there have been countless government and political conspiracies that have kept us wondering. This forum is dedicated to that very topic. Got a conspiracy theory of your own? Post it, and try to back it up as best you can!

Postby rath » Tue Jul 06, 2010 1:14 pm

Biometrics becoming the norm for Aussie banking

Nov 30, 2009

Australian banks are taking a closer look at biometric authentication as a means of reducing fraud, thanks to an improved business case, increased consumer concerns about personal data and some impressive breakthroughs in technology.

In June, National Australia Bank became the first Australian bank to roll out a biometric-based solution for customer authentication, implementing a voice-based system for telephone banking customers.

Tim Cullen, head of direct channels with NAB, said the voice authentication has "far exceeded expectations."

"Nine out of ten customers when offered it are taking up the service," he said.

Cullen said the bank initially experienced some technical problems with the biometric-based technology when attempting to enrol users, but eventually managed to iron these issues out. The bank is now hoping to expand the option to mobile phone banking users, he said.

"Expanding voice biometrics into mobile Internet banking just seemed a logical extension from a usability perspective," he said.

Cullen said he would also consider deploying the solution to an online payments environment in a bid to help reduce card-not-present fraud.

As banks around the world gradually deploy chip-based cards with PIN authentication, Cullen points out fraud is simply shifting to card-not-present environments.

"For us it's about real-time monitoring of card-not-present transactions...but we certainly could move to voice and outbound (calls) for certain transaction types."

Beyond voice

Voice is just one of many biometric identifiers that can be used for the purposes of identification and authentication. In the US, biometric security specialist Global Rainmakers has been targeting banks with its HBOX iris scanning system.

Iris scanning is different to retina scanning, which requires the emission of light and close contact between the scanner and user.

Former Bank of America executive Jeff Carter now sits on the board of Global Rainmakers and says by the first quarter of 2010 the company will have the technology deployed in a mobile phone to allow remote authentication.

"It will go into a phone that has a high enough resolution to complete the registration," he said.

Fraud remains a major driver for banks considering the use of biometric-based authentication.

Customers have high expectations of the way banks manage their data said Cullen. "I think while banks are very protective over data, some other organisations aren't. So having a biometric protecting your identity provides added peace of mind."

"One of the questions we ask is what inconvenience are customers willing to accept for peace of mind, and I think tolerance in today's world is reasonably high, especially in terms of online banking" said Cullen.

In this case however, Cullen said the successful acceptance of voice biometrics has largely been as a result of its ease of use.

"There's probably not a lot of new technologies out there that create a safer experience that are easier to use or create a better customer experience."
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Postby rath » Wed Jul 07, 2010 10:39 am

01 December, 2003.

UK to consider national biometric ID cards, database

U.K. government is set to consider legislation next year for the establishment of compulsory biometric identity cards and a central database of all U.K. subjects, it was announced by the government last week.

The Identity Cards Bill is to be considered in the next session of Parliament, the government announced. As proposed by Secretary of State for the Home Department David Blunkett earlier this month, the legislation calls for a system of ID cards carrying biometric identifiers in an embedded chip, linked to a "secure national database," to be created by 2010.

The purpose of the ID cards is to deal with the "21st century challenges" of greater global mobility and advancing technology while combating such problems as illegal working, immigration abuse, ID fraud, terrorism and organized crime, according to Blunkett.

The information that the government is considering for inclusion on the card includes personal details such as a person's home address and telephone number, their National Insurance number (the equivalent of the U.S. Social Security number), medical information and criminal convictions, as well as the biometric information, most likely in the form of an iris, fingerprint or palmprint scan.

The ID cards would be rolled out in two stages, beginning with the biometric identifiers being included on renewed and newly-issued passports and driving licences. Also as part of the first phase, once the national database was available, the government would issue identity cards to European Union and foreign nationals seeking to remain in the U.K., and would also offer an optional card for those who do not have a passport or driving licence. As part of the second phase of the program, to be implemented five years after the launch of the program, the national ID card would become compulsory.

The government estimates residents will be charged about £35 (US$60) for the card, while setting up the basic system will cost taxpayers £180 million, and up to £3 billion to fully implement.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office declined to reveal which technology companies were working with the government on the technical aspects of the ID cards, "for reasons of commercial confidentiality." Companies that have worked with the U.K. government in the past include Oracle Corp. and Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS), which has already created a database that is currently holding tax-related information on around 9 million U.K. taxpayers.

Representatives of EDS, of Plano, Texas, and Oracle, of Redwood Shores, California, were not available to comment on possible involvement in the ID card program.

Civil liberty groups such as Liberty contend that along with being expensive and ineffective, the scheme would represent a real threat to civil liberties and personal privacy, while providing no obvious upside.

In a speech to the House of Commons on Nov. 11, Blunkett asserted that the development of specific personal identifiers, or biometrics, "would mean that identity could not be forged or duplicated." But the government's own feasibility study on the use of biometrics issued in February said that such methods "do not offer 100 percent certainty of authentication of individuals" and went on to warn that the "practicalities of deploying either iris or fingerprint recognition in such a scheme are far from straightforward."

Bart Vansevenant, director of security strategy at Ubizen NV, said that his company sees no real value for adding biometrics to ID cards, especially as it would not stop terrorism or fraud. Ubizen has been working on Belgium's electronic ID card scheme, the first in Europe to move beyond the pilot stage, according to Vansevenant.

The Belgian ID cards, which should be fully rolled out in three to four years, use digital certificate technology which is cheaper and more reliable than biometrics, Vansevenant said. "There is no reason that is good enough to explain the use of biometrics. It is still a very immature technology plus you have the additional costs of equipment, support and administration problems," he said.

The biometric card would also only work for tracking U.K. residents, while international terrorists would most likely use foreign passports when trying to gain entry into the U.K. "If this were to work worldwide for combating international terrorism, the system would have to be used worldwide," Vansevenant said. "I don't think the U.K. government could convince other countries to use it."

Vansevenant also expressed serious doubts about the security of a national database. "It is a pretty bad idea, especially the database which would be an ideal target for hackers and terrorists."

Belgium, in contrast, does use a database for holding information obtained on an individual when a card is first issued, but it is completely isolated, has no online element and is not related to other national databases, he said.

In the U.K. government's efforts to track terrorists and other criminals entering the country, Vansevenant suggested the use of a smaller central database holding details of people with criminal convictions that could be used as a sort of blacklist.

"Perhaps the U.K. and the U.S. (which is also proposing the use of biometric data on U.S. passports) are using biometrics and related databases from a marketing point of view and trying to position it as the big solution to the problem of terrorism," Vansevenant speculated. "But even then, it's still a bad idea."
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Postby rath » Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:31 am

Coalition to revive identity card.
August 20, 2010

An AUSTRALIAN COALITION government would revive the controversial Howard-era plan for a national access card to identify every individual receiving government benefits, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey has revealed.

On the eve of what Prime Minister Julia Gillard says will be a ''cliffhanger'' federal election, Mr Hockey has told The Age that giving everyone a single identifier for access to health and welfare benefits could lead to ''massive improvements in productivity in health and welfare''.

But instead of everyone having a card, this time the identifier could be in electronic form.

Advertisement: Story continues belowIn other developments as Australians prepared to go to the polls tomorrow:

■ Ms Gillard rushed out a new policy in a bid to win the family vote, sweetening her parental leave plan with the additional promise of two weeks' paid leave for new fathers.

■ The Coalition revealed plans to cut a further $1.5 billion from the federal education budget, including programs to help the poorest students succeed at school and enter university.

■ Internal emails seen by The Age revealed the Greens had been trying to ''stack'' calls to Melbourne talkback radio kings Neil Mitchell and Jon Faine with pro-Bob Brown messages.

■ Liberal leader Tony Abbott launched himself into a final campaign marathon, vowing to keep going for 36 hours until poll eve tonight.

Mr Hockey, revealing plans to revive the access card, said it would open the way for e-health systems to allow diagnosis using the internet, and give doctors access to patients' records.

The lack of an identifier and suitable software had left Labor's e-health initiative becalmed, despite heavy spending on development. ''We've got to have a single identifier for each patient, and software systems that can speak to each other, and get GPs and other professionals to have a computer on their desk to access the system,'' Mr Hockey said.

As human services minister in the Howard government, Mr Hockey led the drive to introduce the access card over objections from privacy advocates. The plan ran into trouble in the Senate, and was then dumped by the Rudd government, which cited cost and privacy concerns.

Mr Hockey said the failure to get the card introduced was his biggest regret in politics. Asked if he would try to introduce it again if the Coalition wins, he replied: ''Absolutely - but only if we get fair dinkum consolidation (of agencies' IT systems) to give better use of technology.

''Whether you go a card or not, I don't know. Everyone has a Medicare card already, but that's old technology. We're spending $140 billion to $150 billion a year on health and welfare, but what productivity improvements have there been in service delivery? None.''

In recent months Health Minister Nicola Roxon and Human Services Minister Chris Bowen have revived aspects of the access card plan, floating a single system to store individuals' health information, and to allow government agencies to share a single IT platform.

Mr Hockey nominated tax reform, increasing workforce participation by young people, mothers and older people, and reform of Commonwealth-state relations as priorities if he becomes treasurer, along with getting the budget into surplus.

He said an Abbott government would bring in a tax specialist from the private sector to head its tax reform task force over the next year, rather than leave it to Treasury secretary Ken Henry.

But he expressed confidence in Dr Henry and Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens.

Ms Gillard used her final address to the National Press Club ahead of election day to announce the extension of Labor's 18-week paid parental leave scheme with an extra two weeks' leave for fathers.

From July 2012, fathers and secondary carers who meet work and income tests will receive two weeks' leave paid at the federal minimum wage, currently $570 a week.

The opposition said the announcement showed Labor was panicking. ''This is a very, very small step to boost an impoverished scheme,'' said Coalition spokeswoman for the status of women, Sharman Stone.

Leaked internal research by Labor, reported last night, suggested the party was ahead nationally, but could lose the election due to big swings in New South Wales and Queensland.

Ms Gillard said in her Press Club address: ''We are in one of the closest election contests in Australian history with the starkest of choices to be made.

''I present to the Australian people the better plan for a strong economy and for the benefits and dignity of work. I present with a better plan to help you manage your cost of living.''

Mr Abbott likened the race to a cricket match. ''It's as if there's five minutes to go in a test match, the scores are level and we've got to make sure we win.''

He wanted to give Australians the ''best possible chance'' to change a bad government.

- with AAP
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Postby rath » Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:34 am

NXP To Supply Security Chips For German Electronic ID

AUGUST 20, 2010

AMSTERDAM (Dow Jones)--Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors NV (NXPI) said Thursday it has secured a contract from the German government to supply security chips for a new electronic national identity card that will replace the current paper-based IDs.

NXP said the chip, known as SmartMX, will ensure the ID card can be used for several electronic services, while offering protection against privacy breaches.

The Eindhoven-based company didn't give financial details.

It is common practice, that government contracts related to ID's are made with more than one chip supplier, for security reasons.

German chip maker Infineon Technologies AG (IFX.XE) expects to also get a deal from the German government. "We are quite certain that we will be one of the two suppliers for the security chips for the new national identity card," Helmut Gassel, President of the Chip Card & Security operations at Infineon said. He added the talks about the contract at a very advanced stage.

The new ID, a substitute for the current paper-based card, will be issued as of November this year and over 60 million cards are expected to be rolled out in the next 10 years, NXP said.

Holders will be able to use it as a travel document within the European Union, and some northern African countries such as Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. They can also use it for a number of other services, such as online banking and shopping, airline-passenger check-in and online tax declaration.
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Postby rath » Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:39 am

Senators push Obama for biometric national ID card

Two U.S. senators met with President Obama on Thursday to push for a national ID card with biometric information such as a fingerprint, hand scan, or iris scan that all employers would be required to verify.

In an opinion article published in Friday's edition of the Washington Post, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) say the new identification cards will "ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs" and "dramatically decrease illegal immigration."

Schumer and Graham pitched the idea to President Obama during a private meeting Thursday at the White House. Graham said afterward that Obama "welcomed" their proposal for a new ID card law; the White House said in a statement that the senators' plan was "promising."

This push for a national ID is part of what the senators say is a necessary overhaul of immigration law, including additional border security, more temporary workers, and a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the United States. It comes just two days before a rally in Washington, D.C. sponsored by groups including the AFL-CIO, Farmworker Justice, and the National Council of La Raza that also calls for amnesty.

Linking national ID cards to immigration reform is a popular idea in Washington political circles. After all, if every U.S. citizen has a biometric-equipped cards, the thinking goes, it's easy to order employers not to give a job to someone without one.

But concerns about privacy, security, and federalism have torpedoed each one of these proposals so far. A similar national ID plan--which also required that employers do verifications--sunk President Bush's broader proposal for immigration reform in 2007. A proposal three years earlier by Rep. David Drier (R-Calif.) to create federal ID cards with Americans' photograph, Social Security number, and an "encrypted electronic strip" with additional information was even less successful.

Then there was the controversial Real ID Act, which tried unsuccessfully to compel states to standardize their drivers' licenses. But a libertarian grassroots revolt, including an anti-Real ID vote a few weeks ago in the Utah legislature, has halted Homeland Security's plans. (Rep. Ron Paul, the former Republican presidential candidate, argued it would do little to curb legal immigration.)

Under the Schumer-Graham proposal, extracting biometric information from hundreds of millions of Americans is no trivial task. It could mean extraordinary lines at regional Social Security offices--and an inconvenience for Americans switching jobs who haven't had their retina or DNA scanned in and stored on the ID card.

"We would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card," the senators' opinion article says. "Each card's unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone's information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information or tracking devices."

A Wall Street Journal article published March 8 included an interview with Schumer during which he said: "It's the nub of solving the immigration dilemma politically speaking...If you say they can't get a job when they come here, you'll stop it." It said the most likely type of biometric data to be included would be a scan of the veins in the top of the hand.

"Our framework remains a work in progress," Graham said in a statement after Thursday's meeting. "The president welcomed the framework and indicated that he needs time to review the structure. We will share our ideas with our colleagues in the weeks ahead, so we can finally solve this difficult problem."
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Postby rath » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:45 pm

Revealed: TrapWire spy cams' ticket to Australia

A shadowy private security company with deep links to the CIA - and a parent company awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in Australian government transport contracts - is operating a pervasive global surveillance and facial recognition network on behalf of law enforcement.

Over the past few days the internet has been abuzz with revelations regarding TrapWire, an analytical system that integrates with surveillance cameras to capture photographs or video evidence of "suspicious activity".

All Australians should be concerned about the outsourcing of Australian government (or military operations) to foreign-owned, private contractors with links to spy agencies.

TrapWire is owned by the multinational conglomerate, Cubic Corporation, which in 2010 signed a $370 million contract with the NSW Government to provide Sydney's electronic ticketing system for public transport, based on the London Oyster card system.

Asher Wolf ... the Melbourne single mum taking on the surveillance state.
In April this year it was awarded a $65 million contract to provide services to CityRail and also runs the Brisbane "go card" system.

Advertisement Fairfax is seeking comment from the government about whether there have been any consideration of bringing the TrapWire system here.

The TrapWire story began late last week, when emails from a private intelligence company, Stratfor - originally released as part of WikiLeaks's Global Intelligence Files in February - appeared online.

The emails and other documentation revealed TrapWire is installed in some of the western world's most sensitive locations - including the White House, 10 Downing Street, New Scotland Yard, the London Stock Exchange and five hundred locations in the New York subway system. Trapwire is also installed in many Las Vegas casinos.

An Australian single mother who online is an anti-surveillance state activist known as Asher Wolf is leading a campaign to expose the clandestine operation, which was created in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks and has been operating without public scrutiny for years.

Australia is leading the way in development of facial recognition technology and Australian government agencies have reacted enthusiastically to it.

The founder of TrapWire is 30-year Central Intelligence Agency veteran Richard Hollis Helms. Several of TrapWire's top managers are also former CIA officers. It is part of security company Abraxas Corporation, which reportedly holds sensitive and lucrative contracts involving activities such as creating fake identities for CIA officers.

In December 2010 Cubic Corporation bought Abraxas for $US124 million.

The aim of TrapWire is to prevent terrorist attacks by recognising suspicious patterns in activity. It forwards its reports to police departments across the US and law enforcement organisations such as FBI and US Department of Homeland Security.

Helms said in a 2005 interview that TrapWire "can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw patterns, and do threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists."

In 2007 the company said that it analyses each aspect of a security incident and "compares it to all previously-collected reporting across the entire TrapWire network. Any patterns detected - links among individuals, vehicles, or activities - will be reported back to each affected facility."

In addition to analysing surveillance footage TrapWire also operates "see something say something" citizen reporting campaigns in Las Vegas, New York, Washington DC and Los Angeles and all reports received are collated in the TrapWire database, analysed by the company and forwarded to law enforcement.

While it appears that TrapWire does not operate in Australia, its parent company Cubic holds several large Commonwealth, NSW and Queensland government contracts. It operates in Australia as Cubic Transportation with offices in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. In 2008 it also opened a defence subsidiary based in Queensland, Cubic Defence Australia, run by Mark Horn.

Cubic Defence Australia has won about $32 million in contracts with the Australian defence force, mainly providing combat simulation and training systems.

Comment is being sought from Cubic about the links between their work in Australia and TrapWire.

Ms Wolf, 32, whose father survived a Siberian gulag during World War II and grandmother at 15 had her thumb cut off by Soviet Union secret police, said she had personal motivations behind her campaigning for civil liberties.

"All Australians should be concerned about the outsourcing of Australian government (or military operations) to foreign-owned, private contractors with links to spy agencies," she said.

She said there were inherent conflicts of interest with profit-driven private contractors working in national security. Ms Wolf is also concerned about Australian law enforcement demands for telco data retention and a lack of adequate time for public consultations during the inquiry into national security legislation reforms.

"They're drowning in data and I don't believe it's helping national security, I believe it's making us more insecure because we don't know where to look at real threats," she said.

Ms Wolf, who has a three-year-old son, said "it was definitely more interesting to be scrolling through tweets on info-warfare than watching 3am infomercials while breastfeeding".

The online hacking collective Anonymous has also bought into the issue. They are trying to organise an event called "smash a cam Saturday", where they provide the internet addresses of US security cameras attached to the TrapWire network, and then provide instructions to supporters about how to hack them.

According to Cubic's 2011 annual report, its revenues in Australia have ballooned to $115 million in 2011, up from $39.9 million in 2009.

"The primary reasons for the increase in gross margins from services in 2011 were the improvement in margin and increase in service revenue related to our transportation business in the U.K and Australia as well as the gross margin from 2011 Abraxas sales since the acquisition in December 2010," the annual report reads.

A search on Cubic's websites reveals no information about Abraxas or TrapWire. The page on TrapWire's website outlining its executives and their links to the CIA has recently been removed.

On its website TrapWire says it was founded in 2004 to build and deploy counter-terrorism technologies "in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks". It seeks to prevent such attacks from occurring in the future and boasts on its website that its technology can "detect patterns of behavior indicative of pre-operational planning".

US authorities were criticised after the al Qaeda attacks of 2001 over failings in information sharing, and part of TrapWire's appeals appears to be that it is designed to make it easier to share information across a global surveillance network. Despite the pervasiveness of its monitoring, it states one of its advantages is that it does not share "sensitive of personally identifiable information".

The internal TrapWire emails were obtained by hackers when they broke into Stratfor Global Intelligence, which had a partnership deal with TrapWire which saw Stratfor earning an eight per cent finder's fee for any clients it referred to the Cubic company.

Separately, a Microsoft-powered police surveillance system is being installed in New York City that connects thousands of New York Police Department and private security cameras in the city, recording and archiving up to 30 days worth of footage at a time. Police can backtrack through the footage when investigating crimes. Microsoft plans to offer it up to other cities around the world.
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Postby rath » Sun Oct 28, 2012 1:51 am

India to compile 'world's biggest' ID database

World's biggest biometric ID scheme forges ahead.

India has launched a huge national identity scheme aimed at cutting fraud and improving access to state benefits.

India's first 'Unique Identity' village

Using biometric methods, including an iris scan, the system will log details of India's population of more than one billion people on a central database.

It was launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi in western India.

The data will be stored online in what India says will be the biggest such national database in the world.

The unique identification (UID) programme will help those in poor, marginalised communities who find it difficult to access public services and benefits because they do not have official records, officials say.

The government expects to give a UID number to every Indian citizen within four years.

Birth registration is not universal and it is hoped that the database will give an accurate picture of Indian society.

'Special moment'

The new ID scheme was launched in the village of Tembhili in Nandurbar district of western Maharashtra state.

The government says better ID will mean benefits are delivered more fairly
The ID numbers were handed out to 10 people, including three children.

The tiny village of 1,500 people was colourfully decorated and the villagers were excited to see Congress chief Sonia Gandhi - who smiled and waved at them - although few locals knew what the scheme was about, the BBC's Prachi Pinglay reports from Tembhili village.

Prime Minister Singh described the start of the process as a "special moment" that would empower the most marginalised in society.

"It will help strengthen the rights of the downtrodden and the poorest, including women," AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

Mrs Gandhi described the launch as a "new beginning" for India.

Billionaire IT expert Nandan Nilekani, who was drafted in by the government to run the project, was also present at the function.

Under the scheme, all Indians will be issued a 12-digit ID number which they will use to receive welfare handouts, to apply for other documents like passports and even to open bank accounts, the BBC's Mark Dummett in Delhi says.

As well as iris scans, photographs, fingerprints and other personal information will be collected and then stored on a vast central database.

The government hopes this will prevent corrupt officials from faking the names of people seeking welfare benefits or access to education - potentially saving billions of dollars.

Critics, however, complain that the project itself will cost billions of dollars and are also worried about the authorities collecting so much personal information.

Others say there is no guarantee that the scheme really will make much of a difference to India's corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy. Some say the focus should be on improving services for the poor, rather than access to them.

The world's largest biometric identity exercise, which is taking place in India, is well on its way to reaching its target of half the country's population, reports the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder.

Jahangirpuri is one of the biggest slums in the Indian capital, Delhi, home mostly to rubbish pickers and daily wage labourers.

Today many of them are lined up outside a tiny, single-room office, waiting patiently.

As each one of them goes inside, two young men and women enter their details into a computer before they are photographed and their fingerprints and iris are scanned.

'Every nook and corner'

It's a process that's being repeated at similar centres around India.

For the past two years, the Indian government has been creating the world's largest and most sophisticated database of personal identities. It's part of an ambitious project to hand over a unique identification number (UID) to each of the country's 1.2bn people.

"From the time we began this centre, we've had hundreds of people come by every day," says Col Ravinder Kumar, who manages the Jahangirpuri UID centre.

Among those in the queue is Kamala, a daily wage labourer.

UID chairman Nandan Nilekani says one million are enrolling every day
It's people like her, the poorest of the poor, who are expected to benefit the most from the UID. They have no proper identity papers and therefore no access to services such as subsidised food rations, a phone connection, even a bank account.

"It's so difficult to get anything done without a proper identity," she says. "We're often forced to pay bribes to get subsidised grains or fuel.

"With the UID I hope things will improve - we can buy cheap food and I can help educate my children."

Since its launch in 2010, nearly 200 million UIDs have been generated. The goal is to cover half the population by 2014.

Nandan Nilekani, who used to head one of India's biggest IT companies, Infosys, is now the chairman of the UID project and gives a sense of the logistical scale of the operation.

"We are enrolling at the rate of one million a day. We have over 20,000 locations across the country where this is happening."

"Now we are confident that we have built a system to scale and it's just a question of widening the reach and taking it to every nook and corner."

Furious debate
It's in Jharkhand, 1,200km east of the capital and one of the country's poorest states, that you get a sense of the potential of the UID on the ground.

Villagers line up at the local council office to collect their wages under a flagship government rural employment programme.

Only this time, their pay is being handed out against their newly acquired UID numbers, after their fingerprints are verified.

"The estimate is that the government spends some $60bn each year on welfare programmes," says Rajesh Bansal, assistant director general at the UID headquarters.

Not all of this money reaches those it is meant for. Some of it is held up by red tape, siphoned by middlemen or simply lost due to corruption.

"It makes the system much more transparent because the UID ensures that only the intended beneficiary gets the money and the whole system can easily be monitored," says Mr Bansal.

The UID has also tied up with state-owned banks to enable migrant workers to transfer money from the cities to their families in the villages, using their UID numbers.

Nearly 200 million UIDs have already been issued
But the project has also sparked a furious debate.

There are concerns over its cost, implications for national security and fears that the data could be misused.

"You say you are going to cut out corruption and leakage. Who are the people who are going to control this? The assumption is that technology is neutral and cannot be manipulated," says Usha Ramanathan, an independent law researcher who has been campaigning against the UID.

"What technology does depends on who controls it. You are saying the whole system is corrupt, so let's centralise data and hand it over to the same people. What sense does that make?"

For now the government has agreed to build in safeguards and the UID project is gathering pace.

Many see this as a potential game-changer in India, bringing the country's poorest citizens into the mainstream, reducing waste while ensuring federal welfare money reaches those who need it most.

If handled right, many believe it could change the face of India.
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Postby rath » Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:57 am

Pilot for Israel's biometric database to begin in January 2013.

In 2013, Israelis will be able to participate in a two-year trial period of issuing biometric identification documents by submitting fingerprints and a facial scan.

The Knesset approved Wednesday a directive to include biometric means of identification and biometric identification data in identification documents and databases. This means that the trial period of the controversial biometric database will begin in January 2013.

The directive was approved by a joint committee made up of several Knesset committees (Science and Technology, Interior and Environmental Protection, and Constitution, Law and Justice). It details the arrangements for the trial period for setting up the database and issuing “smart” ID cards, based on the law for biometric means of identification and biometric identification data on ID documents and in databases.


Under first stage of the pilot program, which will go into effect from January 2013, citizens will be able to voluntarily submit fingerprints and a facial scan in order to receive a smart ID card. After the completion of the two-year pilot program, the aim is to require all Israeli citizens to become part of the biometric database.

The committee said the amended directive “determines the manner of reporting to be sent to the Knesset during the work on the pilot program and toward the end of the pilot period. The directive will set in motion the trial period during which the feasibility of the Biometric Database Law, problems in implementing the law and the dangers of possessing sensitive information will be examined.”

The law, which was passed in 2009, aroused a great deal of opposition, but recently, as a result of a petition to the High Court of Justice by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel and the Digital Rights Movement, the government decided to amend the directive that initiates the law’s trial period. The amendments deal mainly with determining a precise definition of the biometric means of identification and verification, creating indexes to assess the success or failure of the trial period, and safeguarding the information in the biometric database during the pilot.

A summary report to be issued at the end of the pilot will address the various parameters that test the effectiveness of the biometric database, its effectiveness compared to other alternatives, its degree of security and in general, the necessity of having a biometric database and whether it achieves its objectives.

The committee also decided Wednesday to refrain from including minors under the age of 16 in the initiative, in order to protect their privacy. Therefore, participation in the pilot will not be offered to these minors or to their representatives, unless they have submitted a request for a biometric passport.
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