India’s biometric identification program, known as Aadhaar, has gone from an optional program to a mandatory one and is collecting more data than ever expected. In light of private information being published by government sources and lack of clarity on a number of fundamental issues, many are concerned about the security of the program and associated loss of privacy.
The World’s Largest Biometric Database
Over the last seven years, India has been building up the world’s largest biometric database. 1.17 billion people, nearly 90% of India’s population, have been registered in the Aadhaar database. By linking individuals to their biometric details, India has provided a form of identification for rural Indians, making it easier for them to register for bank accounts, get a driver’s license, or receive government subsidies. Registered users need only scan a fingerprint or retina to confirm their identity and access government or even private services. That is at least how the scheme was supposed to work – a voluntary system which would improve the livelihood of rural Indians.
Since its inception the scope of Aadhaar has expanded massively – it has become a de facto requirement for participating in even the simplest aspects of daily life. It began as a facilitating tool for certain activities, such as setting up a bank account and is now mandatory as a form of identification. In June, the government made it mandatory for banks to link their customers’ Aadhaar information with their bank accounts. Any accounts not linked by the 31st December 2017 will be shut down until the account has been linked. SIM cards will also have to be linkedto Aadhar by February 2018 or else be deactivated.
This post was published at FinancialSense on 10/11/2017.