Interview Of The Tribune Reporter

Interview Of The Tribune Reporter

Interview Of The Tribune Reporter

​My story has cleared
doubts surrounding the supposed safety of their private information shared with UIDAI, says reporter behind Aadhaar data breach story

Sat Singh & AK Sharma

Chandigarh: The Tribune reporter whose investigative story on glaring data breach in Aadhaar has earned her an FIR compared officials of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to

"elderly in the house" and called them inefficient. 

On January 4, the Chandigarh-based daily carried a news story with the headline 'Rs 500, 10 minutes, and you have access to billion Aadhaar details'. The story claimed that after paying the amount to an agent, the reporter got a login ID and password, using which--along with anybody's Aadhaar number--she could get all the details the person submitted while getting Aadhaar card.

Refuting the allegation, the UIDAI insisted its data is secure and filed an FIR against the reporter, Rachna Khaira. In a freewheeling chat with Firstpost, she said it was not right for her to disclose if more Aadhaar-related stories are in the offing.

She then added: "Let this particular story settle down. Ab UIDAI ko itne zyada dhakke bhi maarne ki zaroorat nahi hai na... Woh log inefficient hain toh ab inefficient logon ko, eh, buzurgon ko ghar se bahar thodi nikaal dete ho na. You, you give them, you make them understand. Toh woh thoda sa unko hum time dete hain. Aur agar woh cooperate karenge toh hum unke saath [information] share karenge."

(Let this particular story settle down. There's no need to push UIDAI that much... Those
​ ​
​(UIDAI) ​people are inefficient ​...​you don't evi
ct the elderly ​(say inefficient) ​from the house, right?
You, you give them, you make them understand. So we're giving them some time. If they cooperate, we'll share [information] with them.)

Khaira said the best outcome of her story is that it has cleared

people's doubts surrounding the supposed safety of their private information that they have submitted to the UIDAI. She said people
​ ​
would wonder when they
​ ​
hear about data leak and someone losing money from their bank. She said this confusion stands cleared now and people know that their money can be withdrawn, that they need to take precautions.

She said she landed this st

ory when she got a lead. "It was not a planned operation. Hamein information aayi thi. Hamne uspar act kiya. Aur jab hamne inspect karne ki koshish ki toh woh problem hamein pata chali."

(It was not a planned operation. We got information. We acted on it. And when we tried to inspect, then we learnt about that problem.)

She informed that when she pitched the story idea to her seniors at The Tribune, they asked her many questions. The story was extensively vetted, all claims double-checked and only then was it published. She said The Tribune is firmly behind her and taking care of her FIR-related legal aspects. She informed that the UIDAI had first reported the case to Punjab police, who had come to their Jalandhar office for preliminary inquiry a day after the story was published.

She said the reason this story is creating such a buzz is that it concerns everybody and not just any niche audience. She said The Tribune's editor-in-chief Harish Khare told her that some stories are more than a mere journalistic experience and are a service to the nation. She said this is one such story and is the best one she has worked on.

Khaira had joined The Tribune as a staff correspondent in December 2013, after working there as a contributor for a few months. In 2016, she was promoted as senior staff correspondent. She has previously worked at the Delhi office of news agency Asian News International and with national daily Times of India in Chandigarh.

Tribune responds to UIDAI

Responding to the UIDAI, Khare shot off a letter to the organisation's ADG, Chandigarh office, on Monday. It reads: "The Tribune is a responsible newspaper and publishes news and views without any bias or prejudice of any kind. Regarding news reports being mentioned in your letter, we were so concerned with the sensitivity and importance of the matter that we disclosed our sources in the news item(s) itself so as to enable the authorities to look into the concerns immediately."

In the letter, Khare remarked that the UIDAI's stance--it said if the newspaper fails to respond to its letter, it would be inferred that it did not get access to any fingerprints and/or iris scan from the Aadhaar database--indicates that the matter is not being dealt with seriously.

"We feel sorry that the authorities are unable to appreciate that a breach has taken place," the letter reads.

"Still, we are more than happy to provide you any such information and will assist UIDAI to maintain integrity of the Aadhaar data. For that purpose, we believe that it would be appropriate if a duly authorised person came over and interacted with us so that we can answer all queries and follow up questions, if any, in a comprehensive manner rather than entering into protracted correspondence in this matter [sic]."


(Sat Singh is a 
-based freelance writer 
​and AK Sharma is a Punjab-based freelance writer​. Both are 
101Reporters.coma pan-India network of grassroots reporters.) 


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