India’s Home Ministry to ask for enhanced gov’t biometrics data sharing

India’s Home Ministry will ask for regulations or an amendment to the recently passed UIDAI Act to mandate that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) share biometric data with the Registrar General of India (RGI).

Sharing the data will ensure that RGI need not collect 18.5 million biometric identifiers for the National Population Register (NPR) which have already been collected for the Aadhaar scheme.

While the NPR is used for the determine residency and establish the citizenship of each individual, Aadhaar is the civil ID program used by the Indian government to provide social services. To date, Aadhaar has issued over one billion Aadhaar numbers, with a goal of ultimately enrolling 1.28 billion people.

Unnamed sources in the Home Ministry note that by using Aadhaar data, the RGI would not need to replicate biometric enrolment efforts or incur additional costs.

“RGI faces the prospect of taking biometrics of 70 crore people again for preparing NPR,” a top government official told the Economic Times. “Any such exercise will be a huge financial burden.”

Before new legislation was recently passed, the agencies did share the information. However, the new privacy bill ensures that all appropriate technical measures must be taken to secure the Aadhaar biometric data in a central repository, and that sharing of data is highly restricted.

While the logistical case for renewed biometric sharing makes sense, a senior government official told the Economic Times that that the Home Ministry’s case was weak until the Cabinet approved the long-pending proposal for Resident Identity Cards that are planned to be issued to all residents over 18 years, which is the final step in the NPR process.

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