Unknown to most Indians, the biometrics they surrender to Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) during enrolment for Aadhaar is being used for surveillance. According to documents in possession of GGI News this surveillance is being carried out through technology provided by foreign companies – many with direct links to their country’s intelligence agencies.
In 2015, a surveillance unit comprising real time facial recognition, number plate recognition and vehicle speed violation system was setup in Gujarat. At the landmark ‘go-live’ event of the Picture Intelligence Unit (PIU) at Surat Police Headquarters in July 2015, Japanese Nippon Electric Company (NEC) completed successful deployment of their Face Recognition System (FRS) as part of the Smart Cities project for Surat City Police (Gujarat).
As part of the project 5,000 CCTV cameras were to be installed at 500 places in the city. NEC’s NeoFace face recognition technology including NeoFace Watch works with these live CCTV cameras deployed at critical locations in the city while NeoFace Reveal is used for forensic criminal investigation using recorded videos, still face images and sketches of suspects.
NeoFace Watch is a face recognition platform for real-time or post-event surveillance, search, identification and ID verification. NeoFace Reveal is a software solution for forensic investigation that provides law enforcement and crime laboratory agencies with the ability to enhance poor quality latent face images, search against their mugshot databases, and locate potential suspects, while NeoFace Watch integrates with existing video surveillance systems and matches faces in real-time against a watch list of individuals to trigger an alert.
The PIU system will also assimilate databases from other states across India, making it a first-of-its-kind video analytics and facial recognition system in the country. Besides integrating the photograph database, the PIU system will also integrate sound analytics — which will detect gunshots or glass breaking and generate an alarm.
NEC’s biometrics division in Bangalore NEC Biometrics Excellence Center is engaged with UIDAI for ID cards, using multiple technologies for face, fingerprint and iris recognition. NEC was also shortlisted by UIDAI to bring in added solutions like ‘scanning of blood veins to rule out duplication’. It is by far the biggest such surveillance project in the world. This Face Recognition System and Forensic Criminal Investigation System offer Surat police department the technology for real-time intelligence gathering & surveillance of citizens.
Documents available with GGI News reveal NEC is also working on Aadhaar based surveillance for Banking and Financial sector. NEC’s Face Recognition System (FRS) designed for surveillance of critical infrastructure for Banks and Financial Institutions could be deployed at Data Centres, Branch Offices, Key Buildings, Cash Vaults, Locker Rooms & ATMs etc. Existing or new IP CCTV camera feeds are utilized to capture faces of the people walking in front of cameras that are matched in real-time with Aadhaar database to generate alerts.
As part of the Microsoft’s vision to transform cities into Digital Smart Cities, a partnership was initiated between Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) and Microsoft CityNext to develop Surat as a Smart City. One aspect of the Microsoft CityNext vision is to provide a solution for public safety organizations to connect disparate data systems, share real-time information and leverage data analysis models to create a Command & Control station. NEC is part of this Microsoft CityNext initiative. Using Big Data, Internet and eGovernance, CityNext envisions creating a Command & Control Centre as a model of development and progress for other cities to follow.
Following Gujarat’s lead a Picture Intelligence Unit was to be setup in Maharashtra as well. Almost 6,000 hi-tech CCTV cameras were to be deployed in 1,472 locations throughout Mumbai as part of the Mumbai City Surveillance Project (MCSP). The state government now plans to rope in private and public establishments such as schools, hospitals, malls, jewellery stores and cooperative housing societies to tap into their CCTV camera feeds using its own network.
A consortium led by Larsen & Toubro (L&T) implemented the project. L&T is positioning itself as one of the driving forces in India’s Smart City Program for different solutions including Surveillance Systems for which it has partnered with iOmniscient, both of which are part of Microsoft CityNext project.
NEC has also conducted testing an intelligent video surveillance system using facial recognition technologies with the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). The test was conducted for two months last year at Central Park, New Delhi. NEC deployed closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras at Central Park and surrounding areas for monitoring the area from a control room. The company’s video surveillance system performs real-time matching of people entering the park against the NDMC’s watch list of preregistered individuals.
NEC’s Face Recognition System is also being used for surveillance at religious events. Andhra Pradesh state government deployed NEC’s FRS for surveillance at Krishna Pushkaram festival giving it access to thousands of CCTV surveillance camera systems scanning around 50 million pilgrims who came to attend the festival.
In 1984, Director of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) William Casey stated that the espionage activities of certain Japanese computer companies posed a direct threat to the security of the United States. One of the companies mentioned was Japanese NEC. Casey stated the predatory practices of NEC threatened the stability of the U.S. computer industry and urged semiconductor and computer manufacturers to sever their relationships with these companies.
A number of governments use non-government affiliated organizations to gather intelligence and provide cover for intelligence operatives. These activities are used to conceal government involvement in these organizations and present them as purely private entities to cover their intelligence operations.
The Intelligence Threat Handbook published by Interagency OPSEC Support Staff that provide operational security to U.S. government departments and agencies by providing technical guidance and assistance for the protection of U.S operations states that the Japanese have mounted a comprehensive economic espionage and economic intelligence collection effort directed against the United States. Because Japan has a very small government intelligence organization, most intelligence is collected by Japanese companies in coordination with the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).
Major Japanese multinational corporations such as NEC, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, and Matsushita have large corporate intelligence organizations that collect political and economic intelligence. The quasi-official Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) has also been used as an intelligence asset, collecting information and even supporting espionage activities. The Japanese have used HUMINT sources within U.S. corporations, have bribed corporate employees to purchase proprietary data, and have used Japanese graduate students to collect information from universities and research institutes. It is believed that 85 to 90 percent of intelligence collected by the Japanese government and Japanese industry is economic intelligence, much of it based on proprietary data.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 25, 2017
Not just NEC, there are numerous other foreign firms directly connected to the intelligence community that have been certified by UIDAI and awarded contracts for Aadhaar project. One such company is CrossMatch, exposed in the secret documents from the ExpressLane project published as part of the Wikileaks Vault 7 projects. As reported by GGI News, CrossMatch has been used for the cyber operations the CIA conducts against liaison services — which includes among many others the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Cross Match was one of the first suppliers of biometric devices certified by UIDAI for Aadhaar program.
Was NEC and CrossMatch vetted by Indian intelligence agencies before being awarded such delicate projects related to the security of India? Are Indian intelligence agencies aware that under the guise of offering technology what types of covert operations are being conducted by these companies on unsuspecting Indians?
Since its inception UIDAI has claimed that Aadhaar is only for welfare although a mounting body of evidence shows how biometrics taken from Indian citizens is being used for mapping, tracking and surveillance by foreign spy agencies that were contracted to implement the project. Experts have shown concern about these surveillance systems of foreign firms with working relationship with intelligence adopted by Indian police departments and other agencies that show a blatant disregard and colossal ignorance on part of the Indian Government with regards to National Security.