Tech Giants Face Challenge as Indian Gov’t Seeks Access for Aadhaar

The Indian government is inviting the world’s mutlinational tech giants to work with it on incorporating its national biometric ID program, Aadhaar, into their devices and services. The Unique Tech Giants Face Challenge as Indian Gov't Seeks Access for AadhaarIdentification Authority of India (UIDAI), which administrates Aadhaar, convened a meeting to discuss the idea a few weeks ago, inviting leaders from companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung.

The idea is to link the Indian government’s own encryption and authentication services to these companies’ systems, so that, for example, a user could scan a fingerprint on her device, and that fingerprint would then be authenticated via the Aadhaar database. But such efforts will involve allowing the Indian government access to sensitive hardware and software components, and, as Bloomberg reports, that could rankle the tech companies.

Apple, for example, has proven resistant to the idea of allowing Australian banks to access its iPhones’ NFC antennae, and has even fought against the US government’s overtures to build software access for law enforcement officials into its devices. Unsurprisingly, no executives from that company attended the UIDAI meeting. Meanwhile, Google will be hesitant to relinquish its control over user data, the sale of which is a key revenue stream, to any third party.

Samsung and Microsoft may be more receptive to collaboration. As Bloomberg also notes, the former has already launched an Aadhaar-compliant, iris-scanning tablet, and the latter is reportedly developing an Aadhaar-compliant version of Skype. Their willingness to cooperate could net them some considerable market advantages in the months and years to come, given that the number of Indian citizens signed up for Aadhaar exceeds one billion and is still growing.

Source: Bloomberg Markets

September 14, 2016 – by Alex Perala