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Snowden joins outcry against world's biggest biometric database

(Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. intelligence-contractor-turned whistleblower Edward Snowden joined critics of India’s digital ID program as the nation’s top court is due to decide on its legality.

Snowden on Tuesday tweeted in support of an Indian journalist who faces police charges after she reported that personal details of over a billion citizens enrolled in the program could be illegally accessed for just $8 paid through a digital wallet. Named Aadhaar, the program is backed by the world’s biggest biometric database, which its operator Unique Identification Authority of India, or UIDAI, says wasn’t breached.

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An attendee uses an Apple Inc. iPad to take a photograph of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, as he speaks on screen during a virtual conversation at a featured session at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, U.S. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Snowden wasn’t the only one outraged. A public outcry against UIDAI’s action forced an intervention by India’s Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and pushed the UIDAI to issue a clarification.

This isn’t the first time Snowden has spoken against the Aadhaar. On Jan. 5, he tweeted: "It is the natural tendency of government to desire perfect records of private lives. History shows that no matter the laws, the result is abuse."

Several Indian activists -- among them those who beat Facebook Inc. in a hard-fought battle for net neutrality -- allege the program provides legal sanction for the creation of a surveillance state.

Meanwhile, India’s Supreme Court is scheduled to start a final hearing on the legality of Aadhaar on Jan. 17.

--With assistance from Kartik Goyal