Would you feel comfortable having a digital profile with your fingerprint, iris scan, signature, documents, bank account, and essentially your entire life loaded into one number? If so, would you still knowing that you have a ten percent chance of having data leaked to a host of online predators?
The advancement of technology has raised the complex moral issue of identity and privacy in relation to the government. The rise of information breaches and data manipulation are rendering investment into a standardized system even riskier than before.
After the recent and severe “WannaCry” ransomware attacks, the global community has faced the question not only of “whodunnit,” but also of how to even track down this culprit. Intelligence agencies and tech whizzes alike have been trying to track down a digital footprint with little success. A week after the major hit, the only lead anyone seems to have is that easy scapegoat Russia had “nothing to do with it,” according to Vladimir Putin. Imagine how much easier tracking down the perp – or a perp of any kind, for that matter – would be if there existed a database of everyone in the world? Not just the NSA quietly following into our virtual footprints, but an actual system with all of your most intimate online and physical attributes. Unbeknownst to many, that 1984-esque hypothetical is a reality.
The biometric data system of India called Aadhaar holds a comprehensive biological and business profile of more than ninety percent of its 1.3 billion citizens, according to BBC. A registered citizen’s data is encrypted in government computers, and assigned an identity number, which he or she can use for a variety of government-issued services. Yet more important than just convenience, the system gives identity proof to the impoverished who, without a driver’s license or any other documentation, would otherwise not have access to services like welfare benefits. But, according to a recent The Centre for Internet and Society report, more than one hundred million of the digital profiles, ten percent of all citizens in Aadhaar, have been leaked. In putting many essentially unaccounted citizens into a system that can hold them accountable, India is endangering its people by putting their entire lives into the near reaches of mastermind hackers with ill intentions.
Attacking with malware has two end goals: gaining access to private information, and ultimately, earning money and prestige. But, if these hackers were to look at a picture or hold a conversation with any of the two hundred-thousand people, according to Europol, whose information was held ransom, the situation would look very different – except for extreme cases, the hackers would have a harder time committing the crime. Unfortunately, as our generation has learned, digital interaction leaves an emotional buffer; similar to cyberbullying, hacking involves no personality, no face, not even a name, just a series of commands and binary numbers. Perpetrators can’t possibly feel guilty because of the nature of their attack. Morally, attacking a computer with ransomware is much easier than committing a physical robbery. Being targeted is nothing personal.
The creators of WannaCry still remain unknown while India’s system is pouring free information into a global hacking market. Despite my lack of coding knowledge, I feel confident stating that digital identity has never been “safe,” and its security will only continue to deteriorate technical prowess preys on human error. Privacy, and even online safety, is not a right anymore in the eyes of curious and malicious Internet users.
Is convenience and local accountability worth putting your identity into a digital lottery?