Modi Govt in talks with smartphone makers to be part of Aadhaar ecosystem
The plan required a chip level encryption of the smartphones with a UIDAI key and the phones would be connected to the Aadhaar server to authenticate a person’s identity using fingerprint or iris scans
August 02, 2017 / 07:33 PM IST
The Modi government has taken its plan to make smartphones an agent for self-verification through Aadhaar a notch down, with major smartphone players being slow to bring out devices that provide the capability to authenticate fingerprints or iris scans.
A little over a year ago, the Unique Identification Authority of India, the agency that administers Aadhaar, had met executives of top smartphone firms to discuss ways to make smartphones an instrument for identity authentication that could allow people to receive all government services that work on the Aadhaar platform.
The plan required a chip level encryption of the smartphones with a UIDAI key and the phones would be connected to the Aadhaar server to authenticate a person’s identity using fingerprint or iris scans.
A year later, the situation, according to Ajay Bhushan Pandey, the chief executive of UIDAI, is “really evolving”.
“The Aadhaar enabled capability is there today also...Like for example, on your smartphone, you have iris and thumbprint. These things have already come out. Now it is for the market to decide. If there is a market, then every company will bring it. Now supposing the market moves in some different direction like some more innovative product comes, then the market will go there,” Pandey told Moneycontrol in an exclusive interaction.
The response from the companies last year was at best lukewarm, even though some came out with handsets that allow iris scan authentication through Aadhaar. According to several people Moneycontrol spoke to, who were part of the initial meetings, there has not been much discussion on the subject since the idea was floated.
“There was never a mandate to have Aadhaar-enabled phones, it was always market driven,” said one of the industry executives who were a part of the initial discussions, who did not wish to be identified. “It was too mammoth a task, and can’t be done,” he added.
The resistance also stemmed from issues of security and data protection.
The idea, in its original form, envisaged opening up Aadhaar authentication to third party apps, and biometric and iris scan authentication could become one of the permissions a user grants to different third party apps, such as access to camera, contacts, phone book and so on.
“The technology (for using biometrics through self-authentication) has been established clearly, with some manufacturers already bringing out devices that support it. However, it is market demand that will drive market adoption,” said Ajay Kumar, additional secretary at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
Pandey also toed a similar line. “For example the registered devices that we talked about, we have spoken to various manufacturers, so they are also working with us, so this is a continuous exercise. Aadhaar has to (be) delivered through devices. So all these devices are part of our ecosystem and we have to be continuously in talks with these manufacturers who are part of our hardware ecosystem,” he said.