Aadhaar biometric authentication: no for social media, yes for targeted benefits, maybe for elections

Government ID, including biometric Aadhaar accounts, cannot be required for social media and email accounts, according to a court decision reported by The Next Web.

The Madras High Court ruled that linking the accounts would violate the decision made by the Supreme Court against private sector use of Aadhaar, going against a pair of public interest litigations thought sought to mandate the authentication requirement. The court has expanded the scope of the case to consider how WhatsApp can trace people who spread fake news, with the messaging app’s makers have said is not possible without eliminating user privacy protections.

The court has already ruled on a similar case, and Facebook has taken its argument with the Tamil Nadu government to the Supreme Court of India. Facebook will also seek to move the case in Madras to the country’s Supreme Court.

The verification of beneficiaries under the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), however, has been approved by the rural development ministry, according to the Economic Times. The use of Aadhaar for the second SECC process, due to be conducted in 2021, will help the government keep better records of beneficiaries’ living standards, an anonymous senior government official told ET. The National Population Register will form the basis of the updated SECC, which will enable specifically targeted benefit programs, according to the report.

Aadhaar is expected to be used for roughly 60 different benefit schemes going forward.

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey also told The Business Standard that Aadhaar can be used to streamline updates to the country’s voter rolls. The Electoral Commission of India tried previously to link Aadhaar to the voter database, but abandoned its efforts its 2015, but has recently sought legislative changes to allow the program to be revived.

Pandey also said that the UIDAI is currently focussed on improving Aadhaar’s data security and extending voluntary use of the biometric ID.

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