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India: security concerns cloud world’s largest biometric database

The announcement comes a full seven days after journalist Rachna Khaira first identified the alleged breach in an article in the Tribune newspaper1, in which it was claimed reporters were able to buy access to citizens’ personal details, such as names, addresses, phone numbers and even photos, via an anonymous WhatsApp account for as little as $8.

The database, known officially as Aadhaar, was launched in 2009 as a voluntary program intended to help prevent benefit fraud, it has since grown, and is now home to the collected data — including fingerprints and iris scans — of more than a billion Indians, or upwards of 90% of the entire population. Users are issued with a personal 12-digit identity number which they can then use to access welfare payments, and other government controlled services. Authorities have been widely criticized for their handling of the allegations, which if proven correct, could expose users to identity fraud and privacy invasions. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is responsible for maintaining the database, initially denied the claims, dismissing the Tribune story as “clearly a case of misreporting being incorrect and misleading.”

This was followed by a tweet from the official account of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) referring to the report as “fake news2,” last Thursday.

A day after Khaira’s report, the UIDAI filed a police complaint against her, the Tribune newspaper, and the anonymous individuals who allegedly provided them with access to the database, a move that served only to inflame the crisis further, and stoke wider concerns over diminishing press freedoms. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Paris-based NGO which publishes an annual index of press freedom, last year ranked India at 136 out of 180 countries, down 3 places from the previous year, and lagging behind the likes of Myanmar, Colombia and even Zimbabwe. The controversy led Edward Snowden, the former US National Security Agency contractor and high profile whistle blower, to weigh in with a tweet offering his support to Khaira, Tuesday.

“The journalists exposing the #Aadhaar breach deserve an award, not an investigation . If the government were truly concerned for justice, they would be reforming the policies that destroyed the privacy of a billion Indians . Want to arrest those responsible ? They are called @UIDAI,” said Snowden. The agency quickly backtracked, and by late Tuesday afternoon had tweeted its support for press freedoms and its apparent willingness to work with the Tribune to investigate the problem. It remains unclear, however, whether the UIDAI has in fact dropped its police complaint against Khaira.

Security measures

The newest government security measures, announced late Wednesday, will allow users to generate a randomly-generated virtual ID or token to avoid sharing their direct Aadhaar number for authentication, according to the government notice . A second security measure prevents secondary agencies from storing an individual’s Aadhaar number.

Experts say the move will go some way in addressing issues raised in the Tribune report, as well as broader safety concerns. Amber Sinha, a senior program manager at the Centre for Internet and Society, a research institute based in Delhi and Bangalore described the government’s announcement as a welcome measure. “There have been various kinds of security incidents, but tokenization can definitely address some of them,” said Sinha. According to Sinha, the database’s biometric data, which contains the most sensitive information, such as retinal scans, has not been breached and reports in the press are related to demographic data, which can also exist in separate databases, owned by different government agencies or state governments. Though implemented under the previous administration, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has championed the database, and pushed to make Aadhaar cards mandatory. The new security measures come a day after a report from a research institute affiliated with the Reserve Bank of India labeled the database “a prime target.”

“Thanks to Aadhaar, for the first time in the history of India, there is now a readily available single target for cyber criminals as well as India’s external enemies .. . The loss to the economy and citizens in case of such an attack is bound to be incalculable,” said the report by the Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology3.

While the authorities did not cite a specific reason for the new security measures, they did say there were “heightened privacy concerns,” according to the statement from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.


  1. ^ article in the Tribune newspaper (
  2. ^ fake news (
  3. ^ Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (

Airport-style security checks and 12 hours walking a day

Airport-style security checks and 12 hours walking are all in a day’s work for employees at one of the biggest Amazon warehouses in the Uk. The operation in Jersey Marine, Neath Port Talbot, Wales, is just one cog in a global business that has made its owner, Jeff Bezos the world s richest man. He started selling books from his garage . Now Amazon has an annual revenue (2016) of $135.99 billion.

The 33 acre site Amazon 1fulfilment centre opened in April 2008 and has been visited by Wales Online reporter Megan Griffiths spent a day at the site in Swansea Bay2.

Staff are required to lift up to 15kg in weight and push and pull products up to 15kg in weight

What s the building like?

Everything at the Swansea site is regimented and organised . Even when pulling up to park in one of the hundreds of spaces there are signs instructing reverse parking only . The main entrance is not to a welcoming reception area as you would first expect, but through turnstiles accompanied by signs dictating the side to walk up the stairs and down the corridors . The walls are bright orange and emblazoned with signs stating: Safety first . Safety Always and a slogan relating to CWL1, the name of the site.

Each Amazon site is named after the nearest airport, so confusingly, the Swansea site is named after Cardiff, which has the three letter code CWL. Before workers take to their stations they are walked through security barriers, to ensure no personal possessions are taken inside. Amazon in Swansea originally started out with only 30 people being trained up from the local area . Those numbers quickly grew and now the site employs around 1,500 people full time and even more in the run up to Christmas.

One of the busiest days for staff this year was its Prime Day

Read More

The warehouse is split into three main sections. The middle section is where stock comes in from suppliers . It is rigorously tested for quality and fragility, so a suitable method of packaging can be determined . It is also the section where items come back in from the wider warehouse and are packaged to then be sent on large conveyer belts to have the final address label put on for delivery.

There is another section for clothing which is all stacked in drawers made of cardboard and stretches across four levels . This means that stock can be move around easily and also, if there ever was a fire, water from sprinklers would soak through quicker, protecting the stock. On the other side there is a warehouse full of millions of shoes . The company would not disclose exactly how many, but the figure is in the many millions . Stock is located on high shelves which can only be reached by forklift trucks.

The biggest seller for Amazon in 2017 was Best Book – Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients

However, the Amazon machines are designed a bit differently . Rather than just the forks being lifted, the person operating the machine is also raised to the level they need to collect the stock . These operators are called People Up .

How do they get something from order to door so quickly?

If you are an Amazon customer, or Amazon Prime customer, of which there are estimated to be 65 million worldwide, then you will be aware how quickly they are able to deliver. They have an array of items on offer, from Kindles to pantry items . However, not all times are stocked in every fulfilment centre . In Swansea they specialise solely in shoes and clothing.

In short; algorithms – essentially a set of computerised rules that are followed each time – are the key to making the cogs turn. Although the company is not hugely profitable, the thing that keeps the business afloat is efficiency . Amazon is highly driven by data . Once an order comes in Amazon quickly works out where that product is in its inventory . A human picker is then sent out to fetch it .

A picker does not have to know where exactly that item is on any of the millions of shelves as they are guided by a sort of personal sat nav.

Pay rates for seasonal staff start at 7.65 an hour at the Swansea fulfilment centre

The items are organised in a chaotic way . There is not a sub-section for socks and Christmas jumpers, they are all mixed up together . The general manager for the Swansea branch, Pat Faulkner explains: If you had to collect a t-shirt and a pair of socks, you are more likely to have to walk further if they were organised in different sections than if the stock is organised randomly. Then the process moves to the packaging section . Each person mans a station and is given a pile of items to put together . They scan the items and a machine tells them the size of box required, and even the length of tape they need, they package it up and then move on to the next item.

The parcel then goes onto a conveyer belt where the barcode on the outside is scanned and an address label is printed and placed by a computer. Last year Amazon launched Amazon Prime Now, which means Prime members in certain postcodes across the UK can get their items delivered within the hour . On Amazon Prime Day this year, the fastest delivery was of an Amazon Echo device which was ordered at 14.46 and delivered 14 minutes and 8 seconds later at 15.00.

What do they look for in a potential employee?

Each Amazon site is named after the nearest airport, so the Swansea plant is named after Cardiff

In a recent job posting for Amazon in Swansea the company asked that the potential candidates be able to; Stand and/or walk for long periods of time between 8 and 12 hours per shift, lift up to 15kg in weight, push and pull products up to 15kg in weight for 8-12 hours per shift, have manual dexterity in both hands and wrists, be able to climb and descend four flights of stairs safely and to feel comfortable working at a mezzanine height between 9 and 12 meters. One worker from the Swansea Amazon branch got in touch with Wales Online anonymously and stated that They are now only taking on new associates if they take on the role of the PUP drivers (people up) forklifts that carry the passenger up and down to pick .

If you have any underlying medical conditions, and you fail, you re out the door . To become permanent now you have had to complete a set time limit on the PUPs.

What are you allowed to take in with you?

Not much as it goes . There s no time for texting between collections so no phones are allowed . Also, it would be against data protection . All employees are provided with lockers to store their belongings and are checked on the way in and out by airport-style security.

Where do you have your lunch?

In the Swansea branch there are multiple locations for food3 . There is a large subsidised canteen near the middle section of the building, or dotted around the warehouse are miniature canteens that have fridges, toasters, microwaves and seating.

Staff are required to lift up to 15kg in weight and push and pull products up to 15kg in weight

What is the busiest day?

Surprisingly it s not Black Friday4, Cyber Monday or around Christmas – it s Prime Day . Where deals are reserved exclusively for Amazon Prime members . The busiest day so far was on July 11, 2017 . The sale took place over 13 countries and sales grew by 60% compared to the same period the previous year.

However, the busiest period for workers stretches from Black Friday to over the Christmas period. Pat Faulkner has been with the retail giant for nearly three years; We tend to measure our longevity in terms of how many Christmases we have done . So that s two Christmases done and one just coming.

What is the pay like?

Pay rates for seasonal staff start at 7.65 an hour at Swansea fulfilment centre . For permanent Amazon employees, the pay rate increases over their first two years of employment, when all employees earn 8.35 an hour and above. A spokesperson for Amazon said: All permanent Amazon fulfilment centre employees are given stock grants, which over the last five years were on average equal to 1,000 or more per year per person.

The retailer is estimated to be shipping 1.2 million items a year

Employees are offered a comprehensive benefits package, including private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection, subsidised meals and an employee discount, which combined are worth more than 700 annually, as well as a company pension plan.

Amazon also offers employees an innovative programme called Career Choice that provides employees funding for adult education, offering to pre-pay 95% of tuition and associated fees for nationally recognised courses, up to 8,000 over four years. The average pay for an Amazon Services UK employee is 29,000, according to its latest financial filing at Companies House.

The controversy

Amazon has of course not been without its controversy in the ten years since being in Swansea . In 2015 WalesOnline reported claims from the GMB union that staff at Amazon s UK operation had developed physical and mental illnesses because of the regimes they worked under . One US employee previously claimed to walk on average 13 miles a day when on a shift.

Amazon shift thousands of parcels every Christmas

In response, an Amazon spokesman highlighted the company website which gave information about staff benefits, private medical insurance, worker forums, willingness to open up the distribution centres to public tours and worker health. The warehouse runs all day and all night at the same capacity, and only stops work on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day . Workers, or associates as they are known in Amazon speak, work 10 hour shifts, usually for four days a week.

An undercover Sunday Mirror investigation last month revealed staff had timed toilet breaks5, demanding targets and complained of exhausting, intolerable working conditions at its warehouse in Tilbury, Essex.

Workers said they have been paid less than the living wage with shifts starting at 7.30am and ending at 6pm. Amazon responded to the story by stating: Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace with competitive pay and benefits from day one . We are proud to have created thousands of permanent roles in our UK fulfilment centres in recent years.

The Amazon ‘fulfillment’ centre near Doncaster

We offer great jobs and a positive environment with opportunities for growth . As with most companies, we expect a certain level of performance.

Targets are based on previous performance achieved by our workers . Associates are evaluated over a long period of time as we know a variety of things could impact the ability to meet expectations in any given day or hour.

Although there are some horror stories, as there are with many large companies, there are also people who work for Amazon and love what they do. Alexander Bennett is a Customer Service Liaison and was one of the staff members celebrating being with the company for 10 years: I was a dock master at first, which is booking in all the in-bound lorries . I did that for a year then I applied for the role of customer service liaison . It s been a good positive experience . I was a customer before I worked here, so I knew I was joining a company with a good reputation.

Why are Amazon profits tiny?

Large corporations are often in the papers for dodging tax and it seems the European branch of Amazon is no different . In August of this year, the Guardian 6 reported that the UK branch of the company had managed to halve its corporation tax bill from 15.8m to 7.4m in one year, despite the turnover rising from 946m to 1.46bm .

A spokesperson for the company said at the time: Amazon pays all the taxes that are required in every country where we operate. The reason Amazon paid lower taxes from 2015 to 2016 is simply because it made less profit, and tax is paid on profit rather than turnover . Last year the company made 48m, whereas this year it only made 24m. And the reason Amazon in the UK made so much less money is partly because of the way it pays its staff . Amazon UK Services is the arm that runs the fulfilment centres like the one in Swansea and 16,000 people work in these centres in the UK .

Amazon UK Services gives each full time member of staff at least 1,000 worth of shares every year, which staff aren t able to cash in immediately.

If Amazon share prices increase, then the shares become worth more . If you were a member of staff at Amazon UK Services two years ago, your 1,000 shares would now be worth 2,000 . This extra income for staff would probably not be taxed as it would fall under the 3,600 threshold that HMRC rules allow as tax free shares each year. Therefore, the more valuable Amazon becomes, the less tax this branch of the company will pay . The winners in this situation are the employees.

What are/were the biggest sellers?


Best Book – Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients

Album – Divide – Ed Sheeran

DVD – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

PC and Video Games – Crash Bandicoot N .

Sane Trilogy


  1. ^ Amazon (
  2. ^ spent a day at the site in Swansea Bay (
  3. ^ food (
  4. ^ Black Friday (
  5. ^ An undercover Sunday Mirror investigation last month revealed staff had timed toilet breaks (
  6. ^ the Guardian (

First picture of premature baby saved by heroic Asda security guard after tot stopped breathing in freezer aisle

This is the first picture of a premature baby who stopped breathing in an Asda1 supermarket and was saved by a hero security guard. Store guard Shaun Walsh and off-duty hospital worker Neil Franklin leapt into action to revive little Ronny Auckland in the store s chilled aisle on Boxing Day. The pair have now been hailed as heroes after the baby’s2 mum, Terri-ann Russell Auckland, claimed that their swift action saved the life of her son.

Ronny, who was born 13 weeks early in September, is being treated in hospital after his ordeal at the store in Grimsby, Lincs. Shaun, 44, a trained first-aider, told how he and hospital technician Neil saved Ronny, who had been suffering from bronchitis and had mucus blocking his airways. He said: I was giving chest compressions and the other gent got his airways going.

Asda hero Shaun Walsh

Shaun was alerted by fellow staff and immediately starting giving Ronny cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the floor of the aisle, while hospital medic Neil blew into the baby s mouth. Minutes later paramedics from East Midlands Ambulance Service were on the scene and the infant was taken to hospital, reports the Grimsby Telegraph3 . Terri-ann, 31, of Weelsby Street said: I can t thank them enough . I owe them everything for saving my boy s life.

They deserve all the praise in the world for what they did.

You don t know what to do is that situation . I just froze .

Luckily they were there. The mother-of-two boys said: It just shows how everyone should be trained in First Aid.

Read More

Today she was at Ronny s bedside in the Rainforest ward of the hospital. Shaun, who has worked for Asda for nine years said his firm regularly updated his First Aid training.

He said: A staff member came running to me and said there was a boy not breathing.

When I got there his face was blue . There was a crowd of people around him so we got them out the way and myself and the off-duty medic got him breathing again . I was giving chest compressions and the other gent got his airways going . There are not many people who would have been able to do it.

But because we are trained it worked.

It paid off . It shows we are not just big bad security guards, there to get abuse from people. Shaun, 44, said: We just do what we are trained to do . You cope with whatever you are faced with .

We don t just take abuse from people who are doing something wrong . We help people as well. He told how the hospital medic shook his hand and thanked him and left the store. Shaun also went back to work to complete his shift.

He had not originally be allocated the shift on Boxing Day but volunteered his services that day. The mother posted a message on social media to thank Shaun and the other lifesaver in which she said Big thank you to Shaun and the other guy . I don t know what I would have done without you. She had been at Asda with her sister Sara Geddes to buy balloons for her other son Bobby s 7th birthday yesterday.

Asda s people trading manager, Moira Pembleton said: We are all incredibly proud of Shaun . he did an amazing job . Everyone else around was running around but he stayed calm throughout .

It was an emotional moment for everyone.


  1. ^ Asda (
  2. ^ baby’s (
  3. ^ Grimsby Telegraph (