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Nilekani Caught on Wrong Foot on Biometric Data

Contrary to Unique Identification Authority of India chairman Nandan Nilekani’s claim of the biometric system used for the the creation of Aadhar identity numbers being infallible, an RTI

Published: 27th December 2013 07:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th December 2013 07:40 AM   |  A+A-

Contrary to Unique Identification Authority of India chairman Nandan Nilekani’s claim of the biometric system used for the the creation of Aadhar identity numbers being infallible, an RTI response related to one of its contracts to private parties revealed that the system was not completely accurate and that the uniqueness of the biometrics of a person is still an assumption.

The Contract agreement between Ernst & Young and the UIDAI raised serious questions over the entire process of the largest biometric identification scheme in the world, ambitiously storing data of over a billion persons.

The global consultancy firm Ernst & Young was given the responsibility of setting up the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) and selecting Managed Service Provider (MSP), by the UIDAI in 2010. The contact agreement was obtained through an RTI filed on December 6, 2013.

“The Primary claim of the whole exercise is that we are able to assign a unique ID to every individual who is enrolled in the system. However, the uniqueness of the biometrics of a person is still a postulate, albeit with very strong statistical evidence,” said the contract chapter on approach and methodology. In January last year, the Home Ministry had raised concerns over the collection of biometrics of residents saying that the biometric technology of the UIDAI could be flawed. However, the UDIAI was quick to rebut the apprehensions claiming that enrolment system had proven to be reliable, accurate and scalable.

There are other startling disclosures in the appendices of the contract, which reveals that there is also a possibility that the biometric data of two different individuals could be identical.

“The loss in information due to limitations of the capture setup or physical conditions of the body, and due the feature representation, there is a non-zero probability that two fingerprints or IRIS prints coming from different individuals can be called a match,” it stated.

Nilekani in a statement made in January 2012 had maintained that the “UIDAI biometric system is processing over 100 trillion biometric person matches with a high degree of accuracy each day, capable of issuing 10 lakh Aadhaars daily. This makes it not only one of the most accurate, but soon to be the largest biometric system in the world”.

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