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UIDAI mulls Aadhaar biometrics from age three, smartphone as authenticator


India’s government is considering changes to the Aadhaar system, including reducing the age of biometrics collection from five to three years old, and using smartphones as a “universal authenticator” for remote identity verification.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) CEO Saurabh Garg says that two-thirds of the 1.2 billion mobile phones on the country’s networks are smartphones that can be used for authentication, reports The Hindu.

Garg also suggested that Aadhaar authentication and direct benefits transfers have saved the government 2 trillion rupees (US$26.7 billion) so far, and half of all bank accounts have been seeded with Aadhaar.

Authentication charges have also been reduced, to 3 rupees ($0.04) for full know your customer (KYC) authentication and 50 paise ($0.0067) for a simple yes or now response.

Kalinga TV reports that India’s post offices have launched Aadhaar issuance and updating services, though the article also states that Aadhaar is mandatory, which is not strictly accurate.

Biometrics from age 3?

Speaking at a three-day conference on the future of Aadhaar, Michigan State University Professor Anil Jain recommended lowering the age Aadhaar biometrics can be collected at from five to three years, News18 reports.

He cited the high number of child abductions in the country as the reason to make the change, noting that 25 million children are born in the country each year.

The current system involves linking Aadhaar accounts issued to children under five with their parents, and then re-enrolling their biometrics at age 15. The reason for the current age guidelines is that children were found to be consistently able to follow biometric enrollment instructions at five years of age, such as how to hold an iris scanner, UIDAI officials told Jain.

Garg said during the conference that the UIDAI is working on further opening up Aadhaar to private sector access, within the framework provided by the Supreme Court and its proposed data protection legislation.

Government claims commitment to privacy

IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw is seeking to reassure Indians of the government’s commitment to protecting privacy and data security in the country, touting the improvements of the proposed Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill.

Vaishnaw declined, however, to comment on dissent notes from opposition members of parliament to a Joint Parliamentary Committee, according to the Times of India.

The Bill would set up a Data Protection Authority in India, but would allow the government to exempt agencies from some provisions on grounds of national interest.

Vaishnaw also suggested that the UIDAI will consult with experts on the creation of international digital ID standards. The move is at least in part a recognition of the use of Aadhaar as an example by other countries, and the possibility that it will be used as a model elsewhere, India Today writes.

Privacy International expressed concern at the possibility of India’s system being used as a model for biometrics-backed national digital ID systems elsewhere in a report released just days ago.

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