AI ethics

Dr. Usha Ramanathan declared “Hero” for speaking out against India’s controversial Aadhaar digital identity program

Today, Access Now announces its selection of Dr. Usha Ramanathan, an Indian researcher and activist, as a recipient of this year’s Human Rights Heroes Award. Dr. Ramanathan is one of the leading critics of Aadhaar who has, since 2009, tirelessly challenged the controversial Aadhaar digital identity program in India, objecting to both the privacy and the security risks.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet will present the award to Dr. Ramanathan, as well as this year’s four other winners, at RightsCon Tunis (June 11-14, 2019).

In September 2018, the Supreme Court in India ruled Aadhaar could not be mandatory for several purposes, and it could not be required by private companies. Afterward, Dr. Ramanathan worked to explain the ramifications of the judgment and its disappointing limitations. She continues to speak out against the Aadhaar program.

While we give our award to Dr. Ramanathan, we also want to recognize the entire community that has protested and litigated against Aadhaar.

About the Award

We live in an era where rapid developments in digital surveillance threaten to erode universal human rights, such as our right to privacy, freedom of expression and association. In 2013, several NGOs, criminal attorneys, human rights and privacy advocates worked together to introduce 13 Necessary and Proportionate Principles. Signed by 600 organizations and 300,000 individuals, the Principles provide a framework to evaluate whether current or proposed surveillance laws are compatible with human rights.

In celebration of these principles and the work of people around the globe to protect human rights in the digital age, every year Access Now names “heroes” and “villains” who have either protected the principles of freedom online, or worked to undermine them.

Previous heroes recognized by Access Now include UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay, President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff, Professor Kyung-Sin Park, and Supreme Court of Justice of India Rohinton Nariman. Read more about this year’s Heroes here.