Link Between Pakistan's NADRA, US & Indian policy on RFID for vehicles & UID/Aadhaar

Press Release

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) for vehicles linked to Pakistan's National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) & UID/Aadhaar Initiatives

An act of “illegitimate advances of the (police) state” and businesses

USA's Dept of Defence has adopted RFID too

New Delhi 18/4/2012: Unmindful of the fact that such technologies are facing bitter resistance in several countries including USA, Union Surafe Transport & Highways Ministry has given a go ahead for the implementation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) based Electronic Toll Collection as per the recommendation of a committee headed by Nandan Manohar Nilkeni, Chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Planning Commission. The report is attached. It has come to light that country's first RFID technology based electronic toll plaza will be inaugurated in Panchkula, Haryana on April 19, 2012.

There was protest against RFID during the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) between the 16th to 18 November 2005 by the founder of the free software movement, Richard Stallman who protested the use of RFID security cards. On October 23, 2003, USA's Department of Defence their Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Policy. Their Press Release is attached.

In effect, this amounts to tagging all the vehicles with RFID and tracking their movement. It will enable spying on us without our consent. The scheme was schduled to commence either on New Delhi-Chandigarh-Parwanu National Highway (NH) or New Delhi- Jalandhar NH. CFCL expresses strong opposition against this surveillance scheme.

In a letter to Union Surface Transport & Highways Minister dated October 13, 2011, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) had drawn his attention towards the relationship between Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) for vehicles, Unique Identuification (UID)/Aadhaar and National Population Register. The copies this leter was sent to Governments of Haryana and Punjab as well. The letter is attached.

RFID appears to be linked to Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhhar, which is unfolding without legislative approval and despite its rejection by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance. It may be recalled National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had issued notices to the Union Ministry of External Affairs in the matter of Indian students being tagged with RFID or Radio Collars by the US authorities. Both Union External Affairs Minister and the Secretary, Union Ministry of External Affairs had termed such acts as unacceptable. In recent times the former head of International Monetary Fund (IMF) was also made wear RFID or radio collars when he was arrested on charges of sexual assault.

RFID appears to be linked to Islamabad based National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) which was established in March 2000 to provide integrated homeland security solutions in Pakistan. NADRA has developed solutions based on Biometrics and RFID technology and has the largest IT infrastructure in Pakistan with highly qualified technical and managerial resources enabling NADRA to provide customized solutions to any country, as per its website. In Pakistan, RFID is being used for e–tolling in Motorways, implemented by NADRA.

Like Nilekani, Deputy Chairman NADRA, Tariq Malik too was awarded in Milan, Italy at the ID WORLD International Congress, the Global Summit on Automatic Identification in 2009. Shri Nilekani was awarded at the ID WORLD International Congress in 2010. He was given the award "For being the force behind a transformational project ID project in India...and "to provide identification cards for each resident across the country and would be used primarily as the basis for efficient delivery of welfare services. It would also act as a tool for effective monitoring of various programs and schemes of the Government." It is now clear that these various programs and schemes include ETC based on RFID.

With the objective of unified Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) technology for National Highways in India, Union Surface Transport & Highways Ministry vide Order No. NH-12037/33/2010-PIC dated 20.04.2010 had set up a Nilekani headed Committee to examine all technologies available for ETC and recommend the most suitable one for implementation throughout India. The 28 page report of the Committee refers to RFID, saying, “RFID tags are used for the purpose of identification and tracking using radio waves. There are generally three types of RFID tags: active RFID tags, which contain a battery and can transmit signals autonomously, passive RFID tags, which have no battery and require external source to provoke signal transmission, and battery assisted passive (BAP) RFID tags, which require an external source to ‘wake up’ but have significantly higher read range.”

After examining these and several other technologies, This Committee recommended passive RFID tags although there is only one microchip manufacturer for this kind of application stating that “It is extremely simple to use and administer, requiring no actions on the part of the user (the sticker itself can be stuck on the vehicle by the auto vendor or the manufacturer).

It can be recalled that similar stickers were recently detected in the office of our Finance Minister, which was widely reported in the media. It was reported (June 21, 2011, Indian Express) that on September 7, 2010, Pranab Mukherjee, Union Finance Minister wrote to Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh asking him to order a 'secret inquiry' into what he called a “serious breach of security” in his office: the presence of “planted adhesives” in 16 key locations as a possible surveillance act. These locations included the office of the Finance Minister himself, the office of his Advisor Omita Paul, the office of his Private Secretary Shri Manoj Pant, and two conference rooms used by the Finance Minister, including the main conference hall on the ground floor of the heavily guarded North Block. This got revealed through counter-surveillance operation of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) that the adhesives were “planted” at critical places in the Finance Ministry which on closer examination showed grooves on the surface which indicate some “plantable adhesive substances” could have been pasted. The proposed RFID tags appear to be similar to the “plantable adhesive substances” as stickers being proposed for vehicles as part of implementation of ETC technology.

A book SpyChips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID by Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre merits attention. The authors forewarn as to how we are being made to "imagine a world of no privacy. Where your every purchase is monitored and recorded in a database and your every belonging is numbered. Where someone many states away or perhaps in another country has a record of everything you have ever bought. What's more, they can be tracked and monitored remotely". The 270 page book was published by Thomas Nelson Inc in 2005. It has been contended that RFID will impact our civilization in a deeper way than printing press, industrial revolution, light bulb, Internet and personal computers. The introduction of RFID marks the beginning of a world where everything and every place gets imbedded with RFID or spying micro chips.

RFID and UID projects are going to do almost exactly the same thing which the predecessors of Hitler did, else how is it that Germany always had the lists of Jewish names even prior to the arrival of the Nazis? The Nazis got these lists with the help of IBM which was in the 'census' business that included racial census that entailed not only count the Jews but also identifying them. At the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, there is an exhibit of an IBM Hollerith D-11 card sorting machine that was responsible for organising the census of 1933 that first identified the Jews.

The history of RFID can be traced to 1945 when Léon Theremin invented an espionage tool as a covert listening device which retransmitted radio waves with audio information. In the recent times, the largest deployment of active RFID has been done by the US Department of Defense. In 2009 researchers at Bristol University successfully glued RFID micro-transponders to live ants in order to study their behavior. RFID tags for animals represent one of the oldest uses of RFID technology.

Even a cursory reading of the Committee’s report reveals that another technology namely, ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Reader) mentioned at page no. 17 which has been used in London is more suitable and easier to adopt in the Indian conditions “since this type of ETC technology solely relies upon the number plates of the vehicles”. It only relies on “standardization of number plates” and appears quite doable quite comfortable but the Committee has recommended a costlier, difficult and intrusive technology. In a letter to CFCL, Dr Richard Stallman informed, "I think ANPR is dangerous too if used without strict controls. The UK has implemented ANPR all around the country, and uses it to track all car travel in real time. It has already used this system to find and arrest dissidents thought to be on their way to a protest. If ANPR systems are deployed, they should be set up so that they can only recognize cars that are on a list of numbers for which surveillance has been authorized by court orders." Clearly, there is a need to be wary of the emergence of a technology-based social control regime.

RFID Tags, which are world-readable, pose a risk to both personal location privacy and corporate/military security. Therefore, the recommendation of Nilekani headed committee to adopt RFID for ETC must be rejected and the Ministry should revisit its approval for RFID policy.

A Washington Post news report "Supreme Court worries that new technology creates ‘1984’ scenarios" published on November 9, 2011 that records the deliberation in the US Supreme Court on November 8, 2011 merits attention. “You could tomorrow decide that you put a GPS device on every one of our cars, follow us for a month. No problem under the Constitution?” asked John G. Roberts Jr, Chief Justice of US Supreme Court. In an elaborate exchange in which the Big Brother of George Orwell’s novel “1984” was referenced six times and the nine judge bench wondered about a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy in such context. GPS device is a tracking device that utilizes the Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. The issue before the court is: Whether the US Constitution or any democratic constitution allows the Government to put a tracking device on a car without either a warrant or the owner's permission.

It is quite clear that RFID, UID/Aadhhar, NPR and proposed DNA Database is meant for tracking citizens for ever. Undertaking a surveillance or identification exercise on all the citizens of India is indeed a matter of judicial concern.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), New Delhi, Tel:91-11-65663958, Fax: 91-11-26517814, Mb: 9818089660,


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