GIant Biometric Database System In Development To Set Pattern For World System Involving All Buying & Selling Using Electronic ID
India’s Gargantuan Biometric Database Raises Big Questions
BY REBECCA BOWE
SEPTEMBER 27, 2012
he government of India has amassed a database of 200 million Indian residents’ digital fingerprints, iris scans, facial photographs, names, addresses and birthdates. Yet this vast collection of private information is only a drop in the bucket compared to the volume of data it ultimately intends to gather. The Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), the agency that administers Aadhaar — India’s Unique Identity (UID) program — has a goal of capturing and storing this personal and biometric information for each and every one of India’s 1.2 billion residents. Everyone who enrolls is issued a 12-digit unique ID number and an ID card linked to the data.
Once it’s complete, the Aadhaar system will require so much data storage capacity that it is projected to be 10 times the size of Facebook. And while it’s optional to enroll, the program is envisioned as the basis for new mobile apps that would facilitate everything from banking transactions to the purchase of goods and services, which could make it hard for individuals to opt out without getting left behind.
India’s is the largest biometric ID scheme in the world, and the masssive undertaking raises serious questions about widespread data sharing, a lack of legal protections for users’ data, and concerns about whether adequate technical safeguards are in place to keep individuals’ information safe and secure.
Recently, EFF attended a talk by Srikanth Nadhamuni, a technologist and one of the program’s chief architects, at UC Berkeley’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. While he characterized Aadhaar as a cutting-edge tool for fighting corruption and assisting the rural poor, EFF has concerns about the privacy implications of this sweeping effort.
Is Biometric Collection Necessary to Achieve the Program’s Goals?