Tuesday, December 3, 2013

CIA-funded MongoDB partners with UIDAI to handle Aadhaar data –Part XIII

Why biometric identification of citizens must be resisted XIII

In a book ‘Reimagining India’ edited by McKinsey & Company published by Simon & Schuster in November 2013, Mukesh Ambani has written a chapter titled ‘Making the next leap’ endorsing biometric profiling based identification. Ambani writes, “Aadhaar, an initiative of Unique Identification Authority of India, will soon support the world’s largest online platform to deliver government welfare services directly to the poor.” It appears to be a book of the millionaires and billionaires, by the millionaires and billionaires and for the millionaires and billionaires. 

This reminds one of lyrics of a song titled ‘If I were a rich man’ musical ‘Fiddler on the roof’ of the 1970s which noted “When you're rich, they think you really know!” The song goes like:  If I were a biddy biddy rich, Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man.
The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like a Solomon the Wise.
And it won't make one bit of difference if i answer right or wrong.
When you're rich, they think you really know!

In his chapter Ambani adds, “The most exciting prospect of all is the impetus that could come from tapping the surging aspirations of the seven to eight hundred million Indians who remain excluded from India’s success story. If we manage to bring this segment of the population into the economic mainstream, the result will be enormous enhancement in India’s economic and noneconomic power, as we generate equality in access despite inequality in income.” According to Forbes magazine, Ambani is listed as the 22nd richest person in the world with a personal wealth of $21.5 billion. He has retained his position as the India's richest person for the sixth year in a row.

Ambani says, “When I reflect on India’s phenomenal success over the past two decades and consider what will be required for similar advances in decades to come, I often think back on what India was like in 1980, when I returned to Mumbai from Stanford University”.

This book by McKinsey & Company introduces Ambani as the “Chairman and CEO of Reliance Industries, India’s largest private sector company. He is a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry, a member of the board of governors of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, and chairman of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Ambani has a degree in chemical engineering from the Mumbai University Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and an MBA from Stanford University.” The book commits a mistake in stating that Ambani has a MBA degree from Stanford University because he admittedly dropped out and did not complete his MBA course.

The book has a chapter on India by Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google and co-author of “The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Futures of People, Nations and Business” wherein he says, “The government’s Unique Identification project, led by my friend Nandan Nilekani, is creating enormous new possibilities for e-commerce.” What he leaves unsaid is that “Unique Identification (UID)/aadhaar project entails marriage of digital technologies with unaccountable and ungovernable biometric and surveillance technologies which is illegitimate and illegal.     

Nilekani also has a chapter titled “a technology solution for India’s identity crisis” in the book wherein he says, “The Indian government spends about $ 60 billion a year on subsidy programs involving products such as food, fertilizer, and petroleum...But studies show that these programs often have leakages, thus leading to anomalies in benefits reaching the intended beneficiaries. India’s own Planning Commission found in 2008 that more than one-third of subsidized grain supposedly destined for the poor went to better-off households instead, due in large part to fraud and corruption. Errors in delivery and identification resulted in even greater losses of subsidized grain…Aadhaar can this revolutionalize the way public services are delivered as well as dramatically enhance the inclusiveness of Indian society.” He is more concerned about leakage of food grains than leakage of financial and mineral resources which has led to accumulation of black money in foreign countries. His silence on this issue exposes him. He is ignorant about the fact that leakage is not an identification problem but a problem of eligibility wherein those who are ineligible access subsidies. Such pilferage can be dealt with without subjugating Indians to social control technology companies.  

Nilekani concludes saying, identification “Technology can be a great leveler of Indian society”. He seems to echo what Ambani says about generating “equality in access despite inequality in income” by claiming technology to be class neutral and income neutral because structurally it is supposed to be a ‘leveler’. Is inequality in income a natural phenomenon? The authors of this book imply it to be so.  

Meanwhile, it has come to light that the Max Schireson, CEO of MongoDB (formerly called 10gen), a technology company from USA which is co-funded by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was in New Delhi two weeks back to enter into a contract with UIDAI. (Lison Joseph, Navbaharat Times, December 2, 2013)  This company is a Palo Alto and Manhattan-based database software provider in the $30 billion relational database market. Relational databases commenced in the 1970s when computers were moving away from punch cards (that facilitated holocaust in Germany using census data) to terminals. It is taking away customers from Oracle and IBM. This contract has not been disclosed so far. MongoDB will take data from UIDAI to undertake its analysis. UIDAI is tight lipped about CIA’s role in it. This company’s database software is already being used to verify the speed of registration. It is yet to become clear whether this company will be in a vendor relationship directly or it will operate through some pre-existing entity which is already working with UIDAI as system integrator. 

10gen is the company behind MongoDB, a popular open-source, document-oriented database. It is forms part of a new generation of NoSQL -- Not Only SQL -- database products developed as an alternatives to convnetional relational databases from Oracle (NSDQ:ORCL), IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT). Elsewhere Schireson has explained, “We deliver enterprises a 10 to 1 improvement — we charge tens of thousands of dollars to complete projects in a few months that they charge millions of dollars to finish in years” to deal with large volume and diverse variety of big data.

One of the investors of MongoDB is In-Q-Tel (IQT), a not-for-profit organization based in Virginia, USA created to bridge the gap between the technology needs of the U.S. Intelligence Community and emerging commercial innovation. It identifies and invests in venture-backed startups developing technologies that provide “ready-soon innovation” (within 36 months) which vital for the mission of intelligence community. IQT was launched in 1999. Its core purpose is to keep CIA and other intelligence agencies equipped with the latest in information technology to support of intelligence capability. Edward Snowden had revealed that US intelligence agencies are targeting communications in Asian countries.   It was founded by Norman Ralph Augustine.

In his book ‘At The Center Of The Storm: My Years at the CIA”, former CIA director George Tenet says, “We (the CIA) decided to use our limited dollars to leverage technology developed elsewhere. In 1999 we chartered ... In-Q-Tel. ... While we pay the bills, In-Q-Tel is independent of CIA. CIA identifies pressing problems, and In-Q-Tel provides the technology to address them. The In-Q-Tel alliance has put the Agency back at the leading edge of technology ... This ... collaboration ... enabled CIA to take advantage of the technology that Las Vegas uses to identify corrupt card players and apply it to link analysis for terrorists [cf. the parallel data-mining effort by the SOCOM-DIA operation Able Danger , and to adapt the technology that online booksellers use and convert it to scour millions of pages of documents looking for unexpected results.”

In-Q-Tel sold 5,636 shares of Google, worth over $2.2 million, on November 15, 2005 The stocks were a result of Google’s acquisition of Keyhole, the CIA funded satellite mapping software now known as Google Earth. On August 15, 2005, Washington Post reported that In-Q-Tel was funded with about $ 37 million a year from the CIA. "In my view the organization has been far more successful than I dreamed it would be," said Norman R. Augustine , who was recruited in 1998 by Krongard and George J. Tenet, who then was director of central intelligence, to help set up In-Q-Tel. Augustine, former chief executive of defense giant Lockheed Martin, is an In-Q-Tel trustee.

Notably, former CIA chief, Tenet, was on the board of L-1 Identity Solutions, a major supplier of biometric identification software, which was a US company when UIDAI signed a contract agreement with it. A truncated copy of the contract agreement accessed through RTI is available with the author. This company has now been bought over by Safran group, a French defence company. The subsidiary of this French company in which French government has 30.5 per cent shares, Sagem Morpho has also signed a contract agreement with UIDAI. In August 2011, Safran acquired L-1 Identity Solutions.

Now in the backdrop of these disclosures how credible are the poor centric claims of Mukesh Ambani, Nilekeni and Eric Schmidt who are taking Indian legislators, officials, citizens and the Indian intelligence community for a royal ride. Clearly, aadhaar creates a platform for social control and surveillance technologies to have a field day and undermines nations’ sovereignty, security and citizens’ democratic rights. Nilekeni wrote ‘Imagining India’, McKinsey & Company edited ‘Reimagining India,’ it is evident that their idea of India is contrary to idea of India that emerged from the freedom struggle since 1857 and the constitution of India.

Freedom struggle witnessed both traitors who sided with companies and foreign governments   and loyalists who were ready to suffer any consequence to safeguard the interest of Indians. Can citizens of India trust Goolam E. Vahanavati, Attorney General for India and Prime Minister of India when they submit their defence of indefensible aadhhar/UID in the Supreme Court where it faces a legal challenge to take a step back and withdraw the project the way they withdrew their circular making aadhaar/UID mandatory in Chandigarh before the Punjab & Haryana High Court to save Indians from falling into a sophisticated intelligence trap?     


I am afraid to say that author's fears might be misplaced here. Unless we have a copy of the agreement between MongoDB and UIDAI we can't say for sure. MongoDB is an open source product with commercial support (somewhat similar to what MySQL provides in the Relational Database space). Maybe the contract is just about support but not about analysing the data? Or it could be that the UIDAI has requirement related to BigData which warrant the use of MongoDB.

Merely the funding of CIA doesn't mean that the software will be used for evil purposes. US Navy funds for anonymous browser Tor. Tor is used by privacy activists across the globe. Even Edward Snowden relied on Tor. Bruce Schenier who has been quoted on this Magazine also uses and propogates the use of Tor. Although there have been unconfirmed reports of a backdoor in Tor, the people behind Tor project have denied it.

Mukesh kamath
Rabidly leftist--- I dont understand why the rich are deemed foxy and thieves with illgotten wealth. Ambani has refined petroleum for india since last two decades and recently producing gas. They ventured into telecom and increased penetration and served people. I dont understand why CIA is looked at as an enemy organization and not as a partner. The cold war mentality must be still alive.  

You may also want to read…

Why biometric identification of citizens must be resisted? Part I

Biometric identification is modern day enslavement -Part II

Biometric profiling, including DNA, is dehumanising -Part III

Marketing and advertising blitzkrieg of biometric techies and supporters -Part IV

History of technologies reveals it is their owners who are true beneficiaries -Part V

UID's promise of service delivery to poor hides IT, biometrics industry profits –Part VI

Technologies and technology companies are beyond regulation? -Part VII

Surveillance through biometrics-based Aadhaar –Part VIII

Narendra Modi biometrically profiled. What about Congress leaders?-Part IX

Aadhaar: Why opposition ruled states are playing partner for biometric UID? -Part X

Is Nandan Nilekani acting as an agent of non-state actors? –Part XI

Aadhaar and UPA govt's obsession for private sector benefits–Part XII

Gopal Krishna
Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL)
CFCL is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010

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