FIR against Tribune reporter over Aadhaar data breach story

The FIR also names Anil Kumar, Sunil Kumar and Raj, all of whom were mentioned in The Tribune report as people Khaira contacted in the course of her reporting.

Written by Mahender Singh Manral | New Delhi | Updated: January 7, 2018 4:40 pm
right to privacy, supreme court on privacy, privacy judgment, right to privacy news, aadhaar, privacy right constitution, indian express news The UIDAI’s media unit did not respond to calls and texts from The Sunday Express. (AP Photo)

A deputy director of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has registered an FIR against The Tribune newspaper and its reporter Rachna Khaira following her report on how anonymous sellers over WhatsApp were allegedly providing access to Aadhaar numbers for a fee.

The FIR also names Anil Kumar, Sunil Kumar and Raj, all of whom were mentioned in The Tribune report as people Khaira contacted in the course of her reporting.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Alok Kumar confirmed that an FIR had been registered and an investigation launched. The FIR has been lodged with the Crime Branch’s cyber cell under IPC Sections 419 (punishment for cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery) and 471 (using as genuine a forged document), as well Section 66 of the IT Act and Section 36/37 of the Aadhaar Act.

When contacted, The Tribune’s editor-in-chief Harish Khare refused to comment on the FIR. In the FIR, the complainant, B M Patnaik, who works with UIDAI’s logistics and grievance redressal department, states: “An input has been received through The Tribune dated January 3, 2018, that the ‘The Tribune purchased’ a service being offered by anonymous sellers over WhatsApp that provided unrestricted access to details for any of the more than 1 billion Aadhaar numbers created in India thus far.”

The FIR details how the reporter got in touch with the other persons named in the FIR and goes on to state: “The above-mentioned persons have unauthorisedly accessed the Aadhaar ecosystem in connivance of the criminal conspiracy… The act of the aforesaid involved persons is in violation of (the various sections mentioned in the FIR)… Hence, an FIR needs to be filed at the cyber cell for the said violation.”

The UIDAI’s media unit did not respond to calls and texts from The Sunday Express. The UIDAI CEO, when contacted, said he was in a meeting. The Tribune report, dated January 3, had stated: “It took just Rs 500, paid through Paytm, and 10 minutes in which an ‘agent’ of the group running the racket created a ‘gateway’ for this correspondent and gave a login ID and password. Lo and behold, you could enter any Aadhaar number in the portal, and instantly get all particulars that an individual may have submitted to the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India), including name, address, postal code (PIN), photo, phone number and email.”

Late on Saturday, UIDAI’s Chandigarh regional office, wrote to The Tribune’s Editor-in-Chief, asking if “was at all possible for your correspondent to view or obtain Fingerprints and Iris scan of any person through the aforesaid access to UIDAI portal” and “how many Aadhaar numbers did the correspondent actually enter through the said login user id and password and whom did those Aadhaar numbers belong to”. The letter asked for these details to be sent by January 8, “failing which it will be presumed that there was no access to any Fingerprints and/or Iris scan”.

After the report appeared, the UIDAI had in a statement said that there “has not been any Aadhaar data breach”.
“The Aadhaar data, including biometric information, is fully safe and secure,” it had said, adding, “There has not been any data breach of the biometric database, which remains fully safe and secure with the highest encryption at UIDAI and a mere display of demographic information cannot be misused without biometrics.”

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  1. Suhas Gha
    Jan 12, 2018 at 8:44 am
    This man says there is nothing wrong with aadhar, there is no leakage, and udai is now putting a firewall. For what. Above all, such a significant data. Available to anyone is very dangerous. Data of bank transcations of individuals is now at the fingertip of government officers. Of every citizen. Because access to such data is very easily accessable to government. Its a mountain of data and ruling party will always misuse it to access and blackmail u. If government wants to have aadhar linked to bank and money transcations, government should give assurance in writing by president of india that individually that his or her data will not be accessed without permission of individual or court. Not by it officer also. Is dr modi can give such an assurance.
    1. Virendra Sason
      Jan 9, 2018 at 4:39 pm
      केंद्रीय सरकार के चतुर्थ श्रेर्णी कर्मचारी की AVERAGE RY से भी कम वेतन पर , UIADI के 90 संविदा वाले कर्मचारी काम करेंगे तो इनसे गोपनीयता की क्या आशा की जा सकती है ? AADHAAR CARD का काम तो पोस्ट ऑफिस या सरकारी बैंकों से कराया जाता तो जवाबदेही भी होती। खोजी पत्रकार जो अपने दायित्यों का निर्वाह कर, आधार कार्ड की कमियां निकल रहा है, पर FIR करना क्या यह सिद्ध नहीं करता की UIADI अपनी कमियों को उजागर नहीं होने दे रही है ? या सरकार के दबाव में ऐसा कर रही है ? माननीय उच्चतम न्यायलय में किस मुख से आधार कार्ड का समर्थन करेंगे ? सांप के मुँह में छछूंदर वाली स्थिति तो नहीं हो गई है ?
      1. Prasanta Chandra Dash
        Jan 9, 2018 at 10:25 am
        Such cases should be taken up expeditiously because such deliberate attempts must meet stringent punishment at the earliest so that the larger design is halted.
        1. Mark Sinclair
          Jan 9, 2018 at 12:34 am
          The headline is misleading and article is wrong. The FIR was not filed 'against' the reporter. Rather she is mentioned as one of the people exposing the breach in the FIR. In the FIR the accused column is filled as 'unknown' because as yet no culprit has been identified. However, the FIR has to mention the person who exposed the breach or should it not?
          1. K V Bharath Kumar
            Jan 8, 2018 at 3:51 pm
            Unless one know the gross root ctriminalty it can not curbed or plugged. The purported leakage may be a conspiracy hatched against the State. Right initiative at right time. Today when we go for school admission for my g daughter they insisted atleast e Aadhar of the baby, when we went to the Aadhar enroll Centre Eeseva at Amberpet, they have not accepted the xerox copy of the Aadhar of Mother (parent of my g daughter) insisted original Aadhar only, that was kept with her husband who is away from the town. As a retired Banker I requted them to verify with xerox of Aadhar as it conforms Mothers fingers, no was the blunt answer. Common people are suffering where criminals are dancing. UIDA must act on such perpetrators severally as per Law.
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