Aadhaar a Mass Surveillance System in Today’s Time: Snowden

“Something seriously wrong with this system,” Snowden lashed out at the government’s unique identity project.

2 min read
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Former US Intelligence contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden said that the privacy of Indians has time and again been compromised by UIDAI’s Aadhaar scheme – a massive mass surveillance system – while speaking via video conference, at the Vox Media Foundation’s annual media festival ‘Talk Journalism 2018’, on 11 August in Jaipur.

Here is the video below, shared with permission from Avinash Kalla, founding member, ‘Talk Journalism’.

Addressing a huge gathering of students, journalists, members of civil society, and others, on the theme ‘Being a Whistleblower’ at the media event, Edward Snowden shared concerns regarding citizen-monitoring programmes (Aadhaar), UIDAI, whistleblower laws, safety of journalists and his return to the US.

Not mincing words while lashing out at the government’s ambitious unique identity project, he alleged that there is "something seriously wrong with this system."


Further warning Indians over the abuse of private information, he said:

In India, if the Aadhaar system has to work then there should be criminal penalty on agencies for disclosing personal details. In India, the condition is like you can’t have a baby if you don’t have Aadhaar.
Edward Snowden at ‘Talk Journalism’

Govt Must Explain Why You Don’t Need Rights: Snowden

Known for his massive expose on the US intelligence’s covert surveillance operations, Snowden said that the “government needs to explain why you don’t need rights” as opposed to citizens explaining the need for privacy.

However, the task at hand is crucial because he believes that no government will decide your rights but rather introduce a new program under the pretext of public welfare and national security.


Preserving Privacy Not a Herculean Task

Adding that the problem of violation of privacy stems from those who violate it, Snowden believes that preserving privacy is not a “herculean task” except that one needs to do two things to resolve the issues at hand.

“One is to have better encryption systems and the other is to have strong legal systems in place to deal with privacy issues,” the former CIA employee said. 

Journalists Must Stem Tide of Surveillance By ‘Being Truthful’

The NSA whistleblower known for his stance on government spying, called this nexus of corporates and governments versus the journalists as “unfair.”

According to him, journalists can stem the tide of surveillance as they are “equipped with truth which cannot be changed.”

While protecting journalists’ safety, they “need to look critically at the mighty and seek truth that they bring to people,” he added.

But Snowden stated that a framework of protection laws need to be in place to safeguard those who bring out critical information.

Snowden also expressed his reservations about the world treading towards the path of a “Chinese market model” – a “dangerous one indeed,” he said.


Expressing a keen desire to return to his homeland, Snowden added a caveat, saying, “I will do that when the country is free and telling truth is not a crime.”

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