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Aadhaar amendment for voluntary biometric verification by private sector passes lower house


India’s lower house has passed the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019, sending legislation establishing new rules for private entity use of Aadhaar biometric identity verification, as well as new penalties for violating those rules, to the upper house, Outlook India reports.

The bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha in late-June to replace an ordinance that had previously enabled the voluntary use of Aadhaar for KYC checks by banks and telecommunications companies. The ordinance had been necessary because a previous attempt to amend the Aadhaar Act failed in the upper house, or Rajya Sabha, after passing the Lok Sabha during the previous sitting of parliament.

“The amendment will allow voluntary use of Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form by authentication or offline verification with the consent of the Aadhaar number holder. It will also allow the use of the 12-digit Aadhaar number and its alternative virtual identity to conceal the actual Aadhaar number of an individual. The Bill also provides the option to the children, who are Aadhaar number holders, to cancel it on attaining adult age,” Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, summarizing the bill.

Opposition Indian National Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury criticized the government for using the ordinance to put the new rules into effect, and noted that the Supreme Court expressed concern about the privacy implications of Aadhaar when it threw out the part of the act enabling private sector use of the biometric identity scheme last year.

Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Pinaki Misra said the government will continue to refine the law. He also called for the passage of a data protection law to secure sensitive data against neighboring countries and “egregious agencies.” The Hindu reports that Prasad says the government is working on a data protection bill, and that it will be introduced at a later date.

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