Biometric data collection stories at Techdirt.
of all-seeing-hoping-to-see-all-eyes department
In 2017, the Indian government – after collecting at least some biometric records most of its 1.2 billion people – did what was previously considered unthinkable: he opened access to these records to anyone willing to pay for the privilege. What had been inadvertently collected was sold to private companies to verify the identity of users and likely to find more effective ways to sell their goods and services.
This obviously presented a target for malicious malicious hackers, who quickly sell database login credentials for as little as $8, allowing other bad guys to pick up a wealth of identifiable information for misuse.
The government’s collection will grow even larger if the proposed legislation is passed. Most of the country’s population is already in existing databases, having provided some form of biometric information for identification by government and/or private companies. More involuntary contributions would add even more to the government’s biometric stock, as the BBC reports.
The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, which passed parliament last week, requires those arrested or detained to share sensitive data – such as iris and retina scans. The police can keep this data for up to 75 years. The bill will now be sent to the President for his assent.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who has shown a willingness to abuse nearly every available law to target critics – says this is exactly what the country needs to crack down on criminal activity. Modi says the new series will “modernize the police” and “increase the conviction rate”. Both statements may be true, but they are not the only concerns addressed by a law like this.
A recent decision of the Indian Supreme Court upheld the right of Indian citizens to not be subjected to pervasive state surveillance and unjustified. This law will probably be challenged if passed. And the government will need more than the assumption that more criminals are condemned to survive a constitutional challenge.
But, as things stand, there are not many privacy laws in India. Modi is right about at least one thing: national laws must be updated to meet the realities of the 21st century. The last law regulating the collection of information from prisoners was adopted in 1920. And it limits the collection photographs, footprints and fingerprints of those who have been convicted or accused of crimes punishable by more than one year in prison.
This law would remove almost all of these restrictions and dramatically increase the amount of biometric and personal information collected by the government.
It does not specify what these “biological samples”, but experts say it probably involves collecting DNA and blood. Police now need a warrant to collect these samples.
The new law, however, massively expands its scope to include other sensitive information such as fingerprints, retina scans, behavioral attributes – like signatures and handwriting – and others. “biological samples”.
This collection would not be limited to convicts and persons accused of serious crimes. This would allow agents to collect these “samples” on persons arrested or detained before they are charged. And if they are never charged, the government apparently keeps their information for decades.
What it will be really great to help the Prime Minister Modi is keeping an eye on his critics. Protesters will be tagged and bagged, used for monitoring the application of federal and local laws. We can assume that the database will be accessible by the PM and his cabinet, allowing more direct keep their eye on dissidents, insolent journalists and political opponents who have been detained for the sole purpose of data biometric harvest.
This is a truly dangerous proposition. Unfortunately, those currently in power in India are more than happy to continue to pass self-serving laws that make it easier for them to retain their power for decades to come.
Filed Under: biometric data collection, biometrics, Criminal Procedure Bill, India, law enforcement, Narendra Modi, police, privacy, surveillance