India’s ruling government is attempting to pass legislation that will leverage the data associated with its Aadhaar program for security purposes.
Aadhaar is, of course, the country’s national citizen ID program, which has now collected the biographic and biometric data of nearly a billion citizens. The program’s initial aim was to make the distribution of government subsidies and services more efficient, and it has been used to reduce graft and corruption in the process, but new legislation introduced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seeks to give federal security agencies access to its data.
That, in turn, is raising fears about potential infringement of privacy and civil rights. One India-based research group has warned, for example, that security agencies could look for behavioral patterns in the data associated with Aadhaar, while another pointed out that the program’s biometric data would enable police to widely identify individuals of interest. An opposition MP went so far as to say that the in passing the bill, the country’s parliament would be “midwifing a police state.”
The BJP has presented the legislation in the upper house of parliament as a financial bill, which the house is unable to reject but can send back to the lower house, where the BJP holds the majority of seats.