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Aadhaar biometrics extend to drivers’ processes, expansion of police biometric data collection proposed

Health ID plan criticized by advocates


Drivers in India can now use biometrics to perform Aadhaar authentication for drivers’ license renewal and vehicle registration processes, the Times of India reports.

A notification of rule change has been issued after India’s Transport Ministry wrote to the IT Ministry to implement Aadhaar authentication for the services under the ‘Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation, Knowledge) Rules. The change is intended to both support remote processes for increased safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to reduce the number of fake and duplicate drivers’ licenses in circulation.

The government had planned a similar move back in 2018, before it was quashed along with most other use cases with the Supreme Court ruling. A bill expanding the use of Aadhaar to a broader range of identity proofing processes was passed last year.

Ram Sewak Sharma, one of the principle architects of Aadhaar along with Nandan Nilekani, has written a book on ‘The Making of Aadhaar: World’s Largest Identity Platform.” Sharma was the first Director General of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which administers Aadhaar.

The book, with a forward written by Nilekani, has been called “an authentic, gripping and meticulous account of how Aadhaar came to be” by late former President Pranab Mukherjee.

Sharma is now the Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Home Ministry seeks to expand law enforcement biometrics collection

India’s Home Ministry is considering amendments to the Prisoners Act of 1920 to allow the collection of biometrics including DNA data, iris scans and voice samples of people arrested for or convicted of a crime, according to the Economic Times. The current law limits the collection of biometrics to those charged with a crime that carries a sentence of a year or more.

The Home Ministry has also reportedly asked state prison authorities to collect biometrics from inmates to assist with processes such as court appearances.

“Inclusion of other biometrics such as palm impressions, voice samples, DNA classifications have also been proposed,” a senior government official was quoted by Economic Times as saying. “The Act, once amended, would help government agencies to monitor repeat offenders and criminals.”

Patient identification system proposal criticized

An Indian government plan for managing patient health data through the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) could make it more difficult for participants with digital health IDs to exercise control over their data, or even know how it is used, critics say.

Indian Express reports that Access Now Asia Policy Director and Senior International Council Raman Jit Singh Chima is among those suggesting that a lack of a statutory framework and data protection means that sensitive information could be shared with other agencies. Further, it is not clear that individuals would be informed when their data is accessed.

Other problems identified include a lack of redress mechanisms for incorrect information, a lack of specificity about what database will hold the records, and a vague definition of a “consent manager.”

Final comments on the draft policy are due by September 21.

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