Amazon is now asking Indian customers to provide their Aadhaar information in order to find lost packages, according to a new BuzzFeed report.
Aadhaar is the largest and most ambitious national biometric ID program in the world. It was initially implemented with the aim of extending and simplifying access to government services in India, and has quickly become the primary form of ID for the vast majority of citizens. As such, that has led to a growing number of uses in the private sector.
Amazon’s case is one that is now raising eyebrows. Aadhaar is linked to such detailed personal information – including fingerprint and iris biometrics – that its use for such a mundane application as tracking an Amazon package is making some citizens uncomfortable, with one customer telling BuzzFeed it’s “absurd and frustrating” to be asked for such information when trying to track down a product that has already been paid for.
For Amazon, of course, it’s simply the easiest way to authenticate a person who is claiming a lost package; as a spokesperson for the company explained, “There are people who may not have any other form of ID besides Aadhaar.” And the Indian government has in fact encouraged private sector use of Aadhaar, having invited multinational tech companies last autumn to start integrating it into their devices and services. Amazon is one of numerous private companies that has made Aadhaar authentication routine, with Microsoft having integrated it into the Indian version of its Skype Lite app this past summer, and Uber and Airbnb reportedly looking into how Aadhaar can be used in their services as well. So while Amazon’s use of Aadhaar is frustrating and unsettling for some, with the government backing such private sector integrations, more are likely to come.
November 30, 2017 – by Alex Perala