Identity Project

The future is here: A private company claims it can use Aadhaar to profile people

Even before the Aadhaar Bill becomes law, corporate ambition to use the massive database has spilled out in the open.

In recent days, radio listeners may have heard advertisements for a company called TrustID offering “India’s 1st Aadhaar based mobile app to verify your maid, driver, electrician, tutor, tenant and everyone else instantly”. The app boasts it can do this in "less than a minute". Its punchline: “Shakal pe mat jaao, TrustID pe jaao.” Don't go by the face, use TrustID.

Think about what this means. A private company is advertising that it can use Aadhaar to collate information about citizens at a price. It says this openly, even as a case about the privacy of the information collected for the biometrics-linked government database is still pending in the Supreme Court. Already, the court has told the government that it has to limit the uses of the Aadhaar number. Even the Bill that is to govern the project has still not yet been signed into law and will come up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

This should not surprise anyone who has been watching how the project has been unfolding.

Thus far, the Aadhaar project, which seeks to database the whole population, has been marketed as a means of removing leakage and corruption and ghosts and duplicates in the welfare and subsidy system. The title of the law that was passed last week by the Lok Sabha – the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies and Services) Bill 2016 – is intended to evoke the idea that this is about the state gaining control over the welfare system.

Very little was heard about the interest private companies would have in this information data base. It is not until the 2016 Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha that we were told, expressly, that just about any person or company may draw on the Aadhaar system for its purposes. There are no qualifications or limits on who may use it and why. It depends on the willingness of the Unique Identification Author of India, which is undertaking the project, to let them become a part of the Aadhaar system.

During the debate in Lok Sabha, Congress MP Rajeev Satav, raised a question on clause 57 of the Aadhaar Bill which permits private entities – airlines, telecom, insurance, real estate companies – to use the Aadhaar number. Finance minister Jaitley did not respond to the question. The ruling MPs passed the Bill within three hours, rejecting all proposed amendments.

This is part of the imagination that has spurred the project.

Nandan Nilekani, the former UIDAI head who has been the chief spokesperson for the project, called it, not an identity, but an "identity platform" on which apps may be built by any entrepreneur. In 2011, the Economics Times reported what Nilekani said in his address to dozens of software developers in Bangalore who were there for a "UID conference":

"It's really up to the imagination and innovation of the people … In some sense we believe it will be game changing...we don't see this project just as giving someone an ID card. This will create a national-level online identity management platform."

In 2012, in an interview to McKinsey & Company, Nilekani said:

"But what’s equally important is that we expect to see a lot more innovation because of the platform’s open API. That’s the best way to do this: the government builds the platform but makes it open so that individual creativity and entrepreneurship can build more solutions. Ultimately, what we’d like to accomplish in this role is to create a thriving application ecosystem around the platform. Over the next few years, we’d like to see more apps developed by both the public and private sectors…“

At an event held in New Delhi in 2013, he said:

“So that creates platforms…. Now, you have used government benefits to jumpstart this thing. But, once you create the link between the ID and the bank account, you can then start using it for commercial payments. .. that would then be a business to person thing. The next step would be person to person …”

These are just a few illustrations. In fact, several people working with the UIDAI in the initial years left to start ventures that will find ways of leveraging the Aadhaar platform. One instance is Srikanth Nadamuni who joined Khosla Labs, a Bay Area entrepreneurial venture, to expand the uses of Aadhaar.

In June 2015, there was an "Aadhaar application hackathon" mentored by “experts from UIDAI, Khosla Labs, AngelPrime and Morpho” to create apps based on the system.

This corporate ambition to exploit the business opportunities of this massive population database is now a part of the law that the government seems in a hurry to pass.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

Play

Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.