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Linking Aadhaar with social media or ending encryption is counterproductive

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Should Aadhaar be used as KYC for social media accounts? We have recently seen a debate on this question with even the courts hearing arguments in favour and against such a move. The case began in Madras High Court and later Facebook moved the SC seeking transfer of the petition to the Apex court. The original petition was filed in July, 2018 and sought linking of Aadhaar numbers with user accounts to further traceability of messages.


Before we try and answer this question, we need to first understand the differences between the different types of data on social media and messaging platforms. If a crime happens on an end to end cryptographically secure channel like WhatsApp the police may request the following from the provider to help solve the case:



1.Identity data: Phone numbers of the accused. Names and addresses of the accused.


2.Metadata: Sender, receiver(s), time, size of message, flag identifying a forwarded messages, delivery status, read status, etc.


3.Payload Data: Actual content of the text and multimedia messages.


Different countries have taken different approaches to solving different layers of the surveillance problem. Let us start with identity data. Some like India require KYC for sale of SIM cards while others like the UK allow anonymous purchases. Corporations also have policies when it comes to anonymous speech on their platforms – Facebook for instance enforces a soft real ID policy while Twitter does not crack down on anonymous speech. The trouble with KYC the old fashioned way is that it exposes citizens to further risk. Every possessor of your identity documents is a potential attack surface. Indian regulation should not result in Indian identity documents being available in the millions to foreign corporations. Technical innovations are possible, like tokenisation, Aadhaar paperless local e-KYC or Aadhaar offline QR code along with one time passwords. These privacy protective alternatives must be mandatory for all and the Aadhaar numbers must be deleted from previously seeded databases. Countries that don’t require KYC have an alternative approach to security and law enforcement. They know that if someone like me commits a crime, it would be easy to catch me because I have been using the same telecom provider for the last fifteen years. This is true of long term customers regardless if they are pre-paid or post-paid. The security risk lies in the new numbers without this history that confirms identity. These countries use targeted big data analytics to determine risk and direct surveillance operations to target new SIM cards. My current understanding is that when it comes to basic user data – all the internet giants in India comply with what they consider as legitimate law enforcement requests. Some proprietary and free and open source [FOSS] alternatives to services offered by the giants don’t provide such direct cooperation in India.


When it comes to payload data – it is almost impossible (meaning you will need supercomputers) to access the data unless the service/software provider breaks end-to-end cryptography. It is unwise, like some policy-makers are proposing, to prohibit end-to-end cryptography or mandate back doors because our national sovereignty and our capacity for technological self-determination depends on strong cryptography. A targeted ban or prohibition against proprietary providers might have a counterproductive consequence with users migrating to FOSS alternatives like Signal which won’t even give the police identity data. As a supporter of the free software movement, I would see this as a positive development but as a citizen I am aware that the fight against crime and terror will become harder. So government must pursue other strategies to getting payload data such as a comprehensive government hacking programme.


Meta-data is critical when it comes to separating the guilty from the innocent and apportioning blame during an investigation. For example, who was the originator of a message? Who got it and read it last? WhatsApp claims that it has implemented the Signal protocol faithfully meaning that they hold no meta-data when it comes to the messages and calls. Currently there is no regulation which mandates data retention for over the top providers but such requirements do exist for telecom providers. Just like access to meta-data provides some visibility into illegal activities it also provides visibility into legal activities. Therefore those using end-to-end cryptography on platforms with comprehensive meta-data retention policies will have their privacy compromised even though the payload data remains secure. Here is a parallel example to understand why this is important. Early last year, the Internet Engineering Task Force chose a version of TLS 1.3 that revealed less meta-data over one that provided greater visibility into the communications. This hardening of global open standards, through the elimination of availability of meta-data for middle-boxes, makes it harder for foreign governments to intercept Indian military and diplomatic communications via imported telecom infrastructure. Courts and policy makers across the world have to grapple with the following question: Are meta-data retention mandates for the entire population of users a “necessary and proportionate” legal measure to combat crime and terror. For me, it should not be illegal for a provider who voluntarily wishes to retain data, provided it is within legally sanctioned limits but it should not be requirement under law.


There are technical solutions that are yet to be properly discussed and developed as an alternative to blanket meta-data retention measures. For example, Dr. V Kamakoti has made a traceability proposal at the Madras High Court. This proposal has been critiqued by Anand Venkatanarayanan as being violative in spirit of the principles of end-to-end cryptography. Other technical solutions are required for those seeking justice and for those who wish to serve as informers for terror plots. I have proposed client side metadata retention. If a person who has been subjected to financial fraud wishes to provide all the evidence from their client, it should be possible for them to create a digital signed archive of messages for the police. This could be signed by the sender, the provider and also the receiver so that technical non-repudiation raises the evidentiary quality of the digital evidence. However, there may be other legal requirements such as the provision of notice to the sender so that they know that client side data retention has been turned on.


The need of the hour is sustained research and development of privacy protecting surveillance mechanisms. These solutions need to be debated thoroughly amongst mathematicians, cryptographers, scientists, technologists, lawyers, social scientists and designers so that solutions with the least negative impact can be rolled out either voluntarily by providers or as a result of regulation.


The writer is Executive Director, Centre for Internet and Society. Twitter: @sunil_abraham


[Disclosure: The Centre for Internet and Society receives grants from Facebook, Google, Wikimedia Foundation and other non-profit foundations]


Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal. They do not reflect the view/s of Business Standard.




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Skullcandy launches new truly wireless earphones priced at Rs 5,999

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Skullcandy has launched new truly wireless Bluetooth earbuds in India called Skullcandy SESH with up to 10 hours of battery life.


The earbuds feature single-button interface for quick access to media controls for music, microphone, calls, and voice assistant.



With up to 10 total hours of battery life—3 hours of battery in each earbud and 7 additional hours in the included charging case—Skullcandy’s new earbuds feature IP55 rating for sweat, water, and dust resistance.


Sesh is Skullcandy’s latest release in the rapidly growing True Wireless category which also includes recent releases Push True Wireless Earbuds and Indy True Wireless Earbuds.


Sesh will be available in multiple colorways including Indigo, Deep Red and Fearless Black and comes with the price tag of Rs 5,999.




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Asus ROG Phone II launched; starting price Rs 37,999: Specs, other details

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Taiwanese electronics maker Asus on Monday launched in India the Asus ROG Phone II smartphone. The gaming-centric smartphone comes in 8GB RAM + 128GB storage and 12GB RAM + 512GB storage configurations, priced at Rs 37,999 and Rs 59,999, respectively. While the company has not confirmed the sale details of the 12GB RAM variant, the 8GB RAM variant goes on sale from September 30, exclusively on the home-grown e-commerce platform Flipkart.


Asus ROG Phone II specifications and features



Compared to its predecessor, the Asus ROG Phone, the second iteration brings several design improvements and hardware upgrades. It is the first smartphone in India to be powered by Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 855+ system-on-chip. The Asus ROG Phone II has a 6.59-inch AMOLED screen of a fullHD+ resolution (2340 x 1080). The screen has an enhanced refresh rate that goes up to 120Hz, an improvement over the 90Hz screen refresh rate of its predecessor. Moreover, the screen has a 240Hz touch sampling, 1ms response time, 108 per cent DCQ-P3 colour gamut, 10-bit HDR support and a touch latency of 49ms – some key features that should improve the phone’s gaming experience.


In terms of design, the Asus ROG Phone II looks similar to its predecessor, except that it has a less flashy design and has a tall stance. Made of aluminium and glass, the phone has a Corning Gorilla Glass 6 protection on the front and back.


The phone’s back resembles the ROG Phone’s, with a dual-camera set-up on the top-left corner, exhaust vent on the right and RGB LED-powered ROG logo at the centre.


Asus ROG Phone 2


The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ SoC. It has a 6,000 mAh battery and two USB type-C ports (on the left and bottom of the chassis) and Quick Charge 4.0 fast-charge support. The port on the left side also doubles up as a connector to attach ROG accessories (sold separately). It can also be used to transfer data at up to 10Gbps using USB 3.1 Gen 2, and it can give a 4K video output using DisplayPort 1.4. The bottom Type-C port supports USB 2.0 transfers, plus fast-charging via Quick Charge 3.0 and USB Power Delivery 3.0 adapters. The phone has front-facing stereo speakers with DTS:X Ultra DSP.


Imaging is covered by a dual-camera set-up on the back, featuring a 48-megapixel primary sensor of an f/1.79 aperture and a 13MP ultra-wide lens. On the front, the phone has a 24MP selfie camera. The phone also boasts the quad-array noise-cancellation technology through four built-in microphones.



Asus ROG Phone II launched, price starts at Rs 37,999: Specs, other details


Asus ROG Phone II retail package content details


8GB + 128GB variant: ROG Phone II, 18W QC 4.0 charger, USB type A to type C data cable, Aero Case, SIM ejector pin, user manual and warranty Card


12GB/512GB Variant: ROG Phone II, 30 Watt QC 4.0 charger, USB type C to type C data cable, Aero Case, Aero Active Cooler II (worth Rs 3,999 for free), SIM ejector pin, user Manual and warranty card


Besides the ROG Phone II, Asus also launched the phone’s supported accessory. Here are the details:


  • Kunai Game Pad: Rs 9,999

  • Aero Active Cooler: Rs 3,999

  • Professional Dock: Rs 5,499

  • TwinView II: Rs 19,999

  • Mobile Desktop Dock: Rs 12,999

  • 30 Watt Charger: Rs 1,999

  • Lighting Armor Case: Rs 2,999


Asus ROG Phone II Flipkart Big Billion Days sale offer:


Asus ROG Phone 2


The Asus ROG Phone II goes on sale as a special during the Flipkart’s upcoming Big Billion Days festive-season sale. During the sale, the phone will be available with 10 per cent instant discount offer for ICICI and Axis Bank card holders. Besides, it will also be eligible for a six-month no-cost equated monthly instalment offer.




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Asus ROG Phone II India launch today: Livestream, specifications, features

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Taiwanese electronics maker Asus is set to launch in India the second iterations of its gaming-centric ROG-series smartphone on Monday. Named the Asus ROG Phone II, the smartphone was first unveiled in July this year. Compared to its predecessor, the Asus ROG Phone (review), the second iteration brings several design improvements and hardware upgrades. It will be the first smartphone in India to be powered by Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 855+ system-on-chip. Here is a look at the phone’s key features and specifications:

The Asus ROG Phone 2 has a 6.59-inch AMOLED screen of a fullHD+ resolution (2340 x 1080). The screen has an enhanced refresh rate that goes up to 120Hz, an improvement compared to the 90Hz screen refresh in its predecessor. Moreover, the phone has a 240Hz touch sampling, 1ms response time, 108 per cent DCQ-P3 colour gamut, HDR support and a contrast ratio of 10,000:1 – some features that might improve gaming experience.


In terms of design, the Asus ROG Phone II looks similar to its predecessor, except that it has a less flashy design and has a tall stance. Made of aluminium and glass, the phone has a Corning Gorilla Glass 6 protection on the front and back.

The phone’s back resembles the ROG Phone, with a dual-camera set-up on the top-left corner, exhaust vent on the right and RGB LED-powered ROG logo at the centre.

The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ SoC, paired with up to 12 GB of RAM and 512 GB of internal storage; Indian variants might come in different configurations. It has a 6,000 mAh battery and two USB type-C ports (on the left and bottom of the chassis) and Quick Charge 3.0 fast-charge support. The port on the left side also doubles up as a connector to attach ROG accessories (sold separately). It can also be used to transfer data at up to 10Gbps using USB 3.1 Gen 2, and it can give a 4K video output using DisplayPort 1.4. The bottom Type-C port supports USB 2.0 transfers, plus fast-charging via Quick Charge 3.0 and USB Power Delivery 3.0 adapters. The phone has front-facing stereo speakers with DTS:X Ultra DSP.

Imaging is covered by a dual-camera set-up on the back, featuring a 48-megapixel primary sensor of an f/1.79 aperture and a 13MP ultra-wide lens. On the front, the phone has a 24MP selfie camera. The phone also boasts the quad-array noise-cancellation technology through four built-in microphones.

Watch the Asus ROG Phone II launch livestreaming




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