The Editors Guild of India today condemned the FIR filed against the Tribune journalist who reported on the alleged Aadhaar data breach.
In a press statement issued, the Guild said the Unique Identification Authority of India’s (UIDA) action to have the Tribune reporter booked by the police is clearly meant to browbeat a journalist whose investigation on the matter was of great public interest.
“It is unfair, unjustified and a direct attack on the freedom of the press. Instead of penalising the reporter, UIDAI should have ordered a thorough internal investigation into the alleged breach and made its findings public. The Guild demands that the concerned Union Ministry intervene and have the cases against the reporter withdrawn apart from conducting an impartial investigation into the matter,” the Guild said.
Earlier, an FIR was registered by deputy director of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) against The Tribune newspaper and its reporter, Rachna Khaira, for a report published earlier this week. The FIR also named 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.
Dear @rsprasad - how does filing FIR against journalist make sense? Shdnt FIR be against @UIDAI for allwng ds loophole 2 b left unguarded n 4 allwng violatn of privacy of enrollees whch is their fundamental right? Copy: @PMOIndia https://t.co/Eze4OFHAQr— Rajeev Chandrasekhar (@rajeev_mp) January 7, 2018
The Tribune report had revealed that details of Aadhaar is easily accessible, that too just by paying Rs 500.
According to the newspaper, its reporter purchased a service by anonymous sellers on WhatsApp and paid Rs 500 via Paytm to an agent of the group running a racket. The agent then created a “gateway” for the reporter and gave a login ID and password, thus giving unrestricted access to details, including name, address, postal code (PIN), photo, phone number and email, of more than 1 billion Aadhaar numbers submitted to the UIDAI, the Aadhaar issuing body.
Tribune reporter blew the whistle on Aadhaar showing how easy it is to steal personal info from Aadhaar database.Instead of rewarding her as a whistleblower,the govt has registered an FIR against her!This is why Modi govt has not notified Whistleblower lawhttps://t.co/0szECv3dLD— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) January 7, 2018
Not only this, the newspaper team paid another Rs 300, for which the agent provided “software” that could facilitate the printing of the Aadhaar card after entering the Aadhaar number of any individual.
Denying the allegation, the UIDAI statement said that it has "given the said search facility for the purpose of grievance redressal to the designated personnel and state government officials to help residents only by entering their Aadhaar number/EID".
"UIDAI maintains complete log and traceability of the facility and any misuse can be traced and appropriate action taken. The reported case appears to be instance of misuse of the grievance redressal search facility. As UIDAI maintains complete log and traceability of the facility, the legal action including lodging of FIR against the persons involved in the instant case is being done," said the statement.
Earlier also, the UIDAI had filed an FIR against a CNN-News 18 journalist after the television network aired a segment showing that it was possible to obtain two separate Aadhaar enrollment numbers with the same set of biometrics.Last year, the Delhi police had registered the first case under violation of Aadhaar Act 2016 against Sameer Kochhar, an entrepreneur-writer who runs a Gurgaon-based think tank called Skoch Development Foundation , for allegedly spreading rumours on various social networking sites that the Aadhaar ecosystem is vulnerable. The complaint said that wrote a misleading article against the Aadhaar ecosystem and also uploaded a video to substantiate his claims.
The UIDAI found the video and the article to be misleading and filed an FIR with the cyber cell of the Delhi police. In his article Kochhar had claimed that the Aadhaar ecosystem is flawed, vulnerable, has very poor security, and can be easily hacked.
He had also written that India was being taken for a ride by those with vested interest on Aadhaar enabled payment. He has further stated that the national security is at stake.