The World Bank’s chief economist believes that the Indian Aadhaar system is so good that it should be adopted by all other countries, reported Bloomberg. Paul Romer said that though other similar systems are being considered around the world, the Aadhaar-like standarised system has impressed most researchers.
“The system in India is the most sophisticated that I’ve seen,” Paul Romer said. “It’s the basis for all kinds of connections that involve things like financial transactions. It could be good for the world if this became widely adopted.” Nandan Nilekani, the man behind the controversial identification system, said several countries such as Tanzania, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Russia, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia have expressed interest in the system.
However, intelligence authorities in the United States had decided against adding biometrics to the Social Security Number cards in 2007. Election Privacy Information Center, President, Marc Rotenberg had said biometric identifier can “facilitate a much higher degree of tracking and profiling than would be appropriate for many transactions”. “What will happen at the point that your biometric identifiers no longer identify you?” he had said.
In May 2010, the newly-elected Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition in United Kingdom had scrapped the identity card scheme, including the National Identity Register. The government also scrapped future plans of biometric passports. Before introducing the Bill in the Parliament, then-home secretary Theresa May had said the government was trying to “reduce the control of the state over law-abiding people and hand power back to them”, reported BBC.
Aadhaar has 1.1 billion users in the country and the number is increasing in leaps and bounds with the government’s constant push towards making it mandatory for several key schemes, services and benefits. However, the Supreme Court had said that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for any government services.
Though the apex court in October 2015 limited Aadhaar’s use to six specific schemes, and only on voluntary basis, the Centre had passed the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits, and Services) Act in March 2016 to overrule the court’s directive. The Act allows the government to ask for proof of Aadhaar for any subsidy, benefit or services flowing out of the Consolidated Fund of India.
However, six months after that, the top court passed another order reiterating its stand that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for government schemes. The case is now pending before a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court. Activists have been critical about the system since before its launch in 2009. Questions have been raised about the system’s loopholes that may lead to personal information leaks. Several activists have held that the system undermines an individual’s right to privacy.
Several websites and mobile applications have already been found offering unauthorised services related to Aadhaar. However, the Unique Identification Authority of India has held that all Aadhaar data is fully protected and completely safe, dismissing allegations that there have been information breaches and that biometric data has been misused.