Aadhaar continues to evolve and grow as India issues biometric seafarers’ ID

Aadhaar adoption has not been slowed by its severance from private use by the Supreme Court, and the system is up to 1.24 billion people biometrically enrolled, according to Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) CEO and Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, who discussed the status of the controversial identity scheme in an interview with the Financial Express.

There are now 11,000 bank branches and 12,000 post offices carrying out enrolments and updates, and a similar number of government facilities, Pandey says. The UIDAI is also opening 114 new facilities in 53 cities, and Aadhaar enrolment through QR codes to increase Aadhaar service availability.

Responding to a question about Aadhaar’s security, Pandey reiterated that the biometric database has not suffered a single breach, and says the Assam government has approached the agency to apply the same security to NPR data. He also notes that the QR code now embedded in Aadhaar cards makes them more difficult to forge, and says around four or five hundred thousand people each day are claiming free downloadable QR codes for older cards.

The proposed linking of Aadhaar with voter ID cards could benefit voter services, Pandey says, though he notes that Aadhaar does not prove citizenship, and therefore cannot be used a sole source of identification for obtaining a voter ID.

Transactions using the Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AEPS) have increased from roughly 230,000 per month when the system was launched in 2013-2014 to more than 200 million in July, which was up 11 percent over June’s transactions.

“This shows that rural India is using AePS in a big way to avail banking facilities all over the country,” Pandey says. “We are moving towards economic digitalisation at a very good pace.”

India has also launched a new biometric identity document for shipping industry workers, with biometric chip-enabled cards featuring facial photographs and modern security features, according to the Economic Times. The new document is the first Biometric Seafarers’ Identity Document (BSID) with facial recognition data to be issued anywhere in the world, according to the report.

The publication wonders if the new BSID represents a future “Aadhar 2.0,” authentication being performed with facial recognition through public key infrastructure.

The Ministry of Shipping said in an announcement that facial biometric data is cross matched with the applicant’s passport photo during the data capturing process. The card complies with the International Labour Organization’s convention on IDs, and is expected to help facilitate the movement of seafarers.

Nine data collection centers have been set up around the country for the BSID issuance process, which is expected to apply to roughly 350,000 sailors, followed by 15,000 new applicants annually.

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