Wednesday 10 January 2018

Aadhaar data breach story reporter deserves award not FIR: Snowden

Instead of filing an FIR against the journalist behind the Aadhar data breach  story, the Indian government should reforming 'policies that destroyed the privacy of a billion Indians,' ardent privacy advocate Edward Snowden said.

An Indian daily's recent investigative report on access to Aadhaar data being sold via social media needs to be rewarded and not penalised, believes Edward Snowden, someone who has experience in being targeted by a government over a data leak.

Snowden, who famously leaked classified information that exposed a massive surveillance operation run by an American spy agency, today tweeted in support of the reporter behind the Aadhaar data breach story.

He also suggested that those who really need to be arrested are the authorities at the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the body that runs the Aadhaar programme.

Snowden's comments, which came in an early-morning tweet, came against the backdrop of a Chandigarh-based daily publishing an investigative report alleging its reporter was able to purchase access to Aadhaar data from sellers over messaging application WhatsApp.

Following the publication of the report, the UIDAI, which denied 'data breach' had taken place, filed a First Information Report (FIR) with the Delhi Police naming not just the people mentioned in the Aadhaar-data-for-sale story but also the reporter - Rachna Khaira - as well as the daily - The Tribune.

UIDAI's action has come under strong criticism with Snowden, who currently lives in Russia even as American law enforcement authorities attempt to get their hands on him, being the latest to condemn the decision to file an FIR against The Tribune and its reporter.

"The journalists exposing the #Aadhaar breach deserve an award, not an (police) investigation," the former United States government contractor said.

"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, an ardent privacy advocate, also said.

While he was a contractor for the US government, Snowden was employed with the country's National Security Agency. It was during his work the NSA that Snowden came across classified information that he ultimately leaked to newspapers to blow the lid off a massive surveillance programme that was being run by the spy agency.

Snowden's disclosures had led to worldwide concerns over privacy; similar concerns have been expressed in India over the Aadhaar programme, which is facing a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the UIDAI's action against The Tribune and its reporter over the Aadhaar data breach story has apparently pushed the government on the back foot with the minister for electronics and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad yesterday saying the administration is "fully committed to freedom of press" and that the FIR filed is "against unknown".

The Tribune, which was backed by the Editors Guild of India in a strong statement, has vowed to defend its right to undertake investigative journalism.

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