Voluntary Aadhaar biometrics use expanded to more government services, but advocates worry about exclusion

Voluntary Aadhaar biometrics use expanded to more government services, but advocates worry about exclusion

The use of Aadhaar biometrics is expanding to prevent social welfare fraud, enable innovation and pass on knowledge, and for digital platforms in support of good governance, albeit on a voluntary basis, MediaNama reports.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology released a note on ‘Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation, Knowledge) Rules, 2020,’ which state that any government ministry, department, or agency can offer Aadhaar-based authentication, following approval of the use case by the UIDAI. Companies submitting a proposal are referred to as “requesting entities.”

The definition of “requesting entities” was altered by the 2018 Supreme Court decision striking down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, which authorized the use of Aadhaar by private entities. MediaNama notes that the UIDAI website suggests that private entities can use Aadhaar in certain situations based on the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Act, 2019, but a pair of legal challenges to that claim have already been filed.

While the use of Aadhaar for these new tools and processes is supposed to be voluntary, advocates tell the Hindustan Times that there is a large amount of evidence that Aadhaar has been used to deny government benefits to numerous underserved people in India.

A study from the Abdul Lateef Jamil Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) last year found Aadhaar led to many people being excluded from public benefits but had little effect on leakage from the welfare system.

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