September 15, 2016 -
India’s government is demanding that Apple open up its mobile devices and operating system to accommodate its Aadhaar biometric database, according to a recently published article in Patently Apple.
According to the article, a few weeks ago, Indian government officials invited executives from Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to a meeting to discuss embedding the Aadhaar system into their technology. While all the other firms attend, Apple did not appear.
Apple has been noted historically for keeping its devices and operating system closed to outside developers for financial advantage and to government for privacy reasons. The Indian government however is intent that its Aadhaar scheme be widely adopted by all original equipment manufacturers selling mobile device products in their country.
Aadhaar is the 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Indian government to every individual resident of India. The Aadhaar project aims to provide a single, unique identifier which captures all the demographic and biometric details of every Indian resident. Currently, Aadhaar has issued over 900 million Aadhaar numbers, and has enrolled approximately 850 million people, with a goal of ultimately enrolling 1.28 billion people.
The program, governed by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), is currently used to authenticate delivery of social services including: school attendance, natural gas subsidies to India’s rural poor, and direct wage payments to bank accounts. The system also provides identification to people who do not have birth certificates.
The report from Patently Apple stated that UIDAI chief Ajay Bhushan Pandey, who convened the meeting, said the industry firms listened politely, but were non-committal. However, Pandey said he was frank about the government’s position, and told the industry representatives: “Go to your headquarters and work this out so that we can have Aadhaar-registered devices”.
None of the companies will comment on what transpired at the gathering, but according to sources the Indian government is only interested in authorizing OEMs of mobile devices that offer Aadhaar enabled devices. Currently, Apple does not have favoured company status in India and cannot open its famed Apple retail stores in the country.
According to the report, Samsung is the only global device-maker currently making an Aadhaar-friendly device, which is a tablet that is reportedly selling well. Microsoft is also said to be working with the Indian government to link its Skype personal telecommunication service with the Aadhaar database, so that the service can be used to make authenticated calls.