MUMBAI: Amid the raging controversy over leak of Aadhaar info
rmation, a Reserve Bank of India-backed study has found that the benefits of the country’s biometrics-based identity system are unclear.
The outcome of the study, published by RBI last October, shows that the impact of Direct Benefit Transfer to the poor was an area that may need further study.
The paper titled ‘Biometric and Its Impact in India’ was authored by S Ananth, an adjunct faculty at the Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology, but was published by the central bank as an autonomous institute.
Just last week, reports emerged that Aadhaar data pertaining to more than 1 billion people was available to anyone willing to pay just Rs 500. The implementing authority, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), later denied that biometric data of 1 billion citizens was leaked and claimed all sensitive data was safe with it.
The paper raised concerns related to Aadhaar, including access to those in the bottom of the pyramid, quality of authentication, unclear financial benefits and security concerns. Data protection under UIDAI’s control was a challenge, it added.
“Thanks to Aadhaar, for the first time in the history of India, there is now a readily available single target for cyber criminals as well as India’s external enemies,” Ananth reasoned.
Stating that though financial inclusion was one of the goals of Aadhaar since its inception, the paper said biometric solutions seem to be long on promise and short on delivery.
Citing the example of undivided AP, Ananth said the growing emphasis on the use of Aadhaar as a mandatory Know Your Customer norm was emerging as an obstacle in banking access for those who registered with the earlier system.
Question mark over data security
A more serious privacy concern, according to S Ananth, was that UIDAI has promised to archive the data for five years.
“Since UIDAI’s vision has no qualms about allowing private service providers... to partici-pate in developing an ecosystem related to it, one wonders how secu-rity of data of companies that are foreign in nature and those that have little legal and economic exposure... can be ensured,” he said and added that
“The problem is now compounded with the linkage of bank account, driving license, phone number and a host of other services to Aadhaar.”