India's Big Brother: Fingerprint and Eye Scans Required for Food and Medicine

India collects biometric data on 1.3 billion residents for use in a nationwide identity system called Aadhaar.

The New York Times notes Big Brother has Arrived in India.

Seeking to build an identification system of unprecedented scope, India is scanning the fingerprints, eyes and faces of its 1.3 billion residents and connecting the data to everything from welfare benefits to mobile phones.

Civil libertarians are horrified, viewing the program, called Aadhaar, as Orwell’s Big Brother brought to life. To the government, it’s more like “big brother,” a term of endearment used by many Indians to address a stranger when asking for help.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other champions of the program say that Aadhaar is India’s ticket to the future, a universal, easy-to-use ID that will reduce this country’s endemic corruption and help bring even the most illiterate into the digital age.

The poor must scan their fingerprints at the ration shop to get their government allocations of rice. Retirees must do the same to get their pensions. Middle-school students cannot enter the water department’s annual painting contest until they submit their identification.

The Modi government has also ordered Indians to link their IDs to their cellphone and bank accounts.

Although the system’s core fingerprint, iris and face database appears to have remained secure, at least 210 government websites have leaked other personal data — such as name, birth date, address, parents’ names, bank account number and Aadhaar number — for millions of Indians. Some of that data is still available with a simple Google search.

As Aadhaar has become mandatory for government benefits, parts of rural India have struggled with the internet connections necessary to make Aadhaar work. After a lifetime of manual labor, many Indians also have no readable prints, making authentication difficult. One recent study found that 20 percent of the households in Jharkand state had failed to get their food rations under Aadhaar-based verification — five times the failure rate of ration cards.

Does anyone see this system as a benefit for the people?

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (27)
No. 1-25
RonJ
RonJ

"Does anyone see this system as a benefit for the people?" It is not meant as a benefit to the people.

RonJ
RonJ

Neither is gun control.

Curious-Cat
Curious-Cat

It's not pretty but I think I see why the government is doing this. Article in The Times of India says India must grow at 9% to provide youth jobs. https://goo.gl/YFSpQ9 Since that level of growth may be seen as impossible, India will be left with many young people who are unable to marry and form households. A society where there are many young unattached young men tends toward violence. The government may be forecasting these events and preparing itself for stronger control to manage the coming chaos. Ditto with China.

Hooligan
Hooligan

seems bass ackwards - only politicians should be tracked in this way - yanno, to hold them accountable and such.

Brother
Brother

It will happen here voluntarily as a convenience.