Indian gov’t says it won’t link Aadhaar to national security databases

The Indian government has stated that it will not link its Aadhaar biometric identification scheme with its national intelligence databases.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s Minister of Law and Justice, told the parliament on Monday: “Let me assure the house that Aadhaar’s linking with NATGRID is not there.”

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. At last count, over 1.1 billion people out of India’s population of 1.27 billion have been registered in the Aadhaar database.

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.

Although the Aadhaar scheme was initially launched for the provision of social services, the Indian government has extended Aadhaar to consumer financial transactions (currently there are 400 million linked bank accounts), and to myriad other services.

The government, according to India’s Daily News and Analysis, will not link to Natgrid, which is “a programme of real-time networking of 21 databases with enforcement agencies to cross-link information and flag tripwires to predict or point out unlawful or terrorist activities.”

Prasad added: “According to Section 29 (1) of Aadhaar Act, even I cannot disclose my biometrics to anyone. And, in a case of breach of privacy, even the officers of the UIDAI have no escape. I want to dispel all misconceptions about Aadhaar. Aadhar is robust, safe, secure and totally accountable.”

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