India Utilizing Citizens’ Biometrics

India Stack Project

The Indian government is moving forward with the world’s largest biometric identity database, which will be available for use by tech companies, health care providers and app developers, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The fingerprints and eye scans of nearly all of the country’s 1.2 billion citizens have been gathered for the government-backed initiative called “India Stack.” The project is aiming to standardize how data is exchanged digitally in order to attain jobs, facilitate financial transactions or access government services.

Through the initiative, government identification records will be incorporated into commercial websites and apps by allowing biometrics to be used for actions such as signing up for insurance, verifying identity for school examinations or even receiving health care subsidies, the report suggested.

But the digital transformation in the usage of biometric identity data is a major concern for privacy advocates.

“It’s the worst time for privacy policy in the country,” Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for internet and Privacy, told WSJ.

“We are very caught up in technological exuberance. Techno-utopians are ruling the roost,” Abraham continued.

Though India Stack has the potential to result in India being a truly cashless, paperless and presence-less society, it also puts the power of a government repository of identity data in the hands of private companies for commercial services.

Privacy advocates worry about the close interaction between the government and private sector interests when it comes to the initiative. As a result, many have argued that, to avoid potential abuse of the system, the digital services and platforms should be purchased through a procurement process in accordance with the country’s comptroller, auditor general and Right to Information Act, WSJ noted.