Plans to link Aadhaar numbers, biometrics to digital identity raises privacy concerns

January 21, 2015 - 

At a meeting of the India-U.S. Information and Communications Technologies Working Group last week, members discussed the process of establishing the ”Digital India” initiative that strives to provide every Indian citizen with broadband connection by December 2016.

The Digital India initiative also envisions a “cradle-to-grave digital identity” that is unique, lifelong, and authenticable according to a blog post by the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The Indian government plans to use Aadhaar numbers to digitally link every Indian citizen to the Internet with a unique 12 digit identifier.

As a result, citizens will be able to securely access innovative tools such as digital welfare benefits and online medical services.

Though the new initiative will benefit the nation and its residents by securing high-speed access for education, commerce, health, and the overall distribution of information, some are concerned that linking this access to the Aadhaar number has considerable risks.

To be provided with secure online access to government services, India citizens are being asked to give up a significant amount of personal information including their names, birth dates, addresses, and biometric information collected by iris and fingerprint scanners.

There has already been some widespread data integrity issues involved with the storage of the Aadhaar data, leading many to wonder how the information is being protected, what is being done with the data, which parties have access to the data, and how the information will be shared between government agencies, without more rigid legislation.

The initiative also seems to contradict the 2013 ruling from the Supreme Court of India that no citizen should be required to obtain an Aadhaar card in order to have access to government services.

Read more about the Digital India initiative here.

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About Stephen Mayhew

Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. His experience includes a mix of entrepreneurship, brand development and publishing. Stephen attended Carleton University and lives in Toronto, Canada. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.