February 22, 2016 –
Officials in the Indian government claim that Apple, Microsoft and Google are not making their proprietary biometric systems available to be used for Aadhaar authentication. The officials claim that these companies are acting as “gatekeepers” and are averse to allowing open access to their smartphone software development frameworks to leverage biometric functionality.
Aadhaar, recognized as the world’s largest universal civil ID program and biometric database, is currently used by the Indian government to provide social services. To date, Aadhaar has issued over 900 million Aadhaar numbers, and has enrolled approximately 850 million people, with a goal of ultimately enrolling 1.28 billion people.
With wider enrollment, government officials predict that Aadhaar will become a platform for financial transactions since the Indian government has proposed use of Aadhaar to issue bank accounts to all Indian households.
The government has also committed to expand the use of Aadhaar for social services, implementation of a universal healthcare scheme, along with enhanced monitoring of government employee attendance and truancy. The government has also proposed using Aadhaar for private sector employment ID validation, along with national security and crime-related surveillance applications.
Unnamed government officials told the Indian Express that they are dissatisfied with stance of the tech companies because while not everyone has a credit card, nearly everyone in India has a mobile phone that can enable financial transactions.
“The mobile number that you have for the phone is ‘what you have’. A phone is one factor of authentication. There are ways to confirm that this mobile number is yours, for instance through mechanisms such as “one time password”. The second factor of authentication is the biometric, which can be an iris scan or a fingerprint. India’s Aadhaar is unique in the world, and can make the mobile instrument provide a two-factor authentication for online transactions,” an official said.
A problem emerges, however, if smartphone developers are uncooperative and do not allow their software frameworks to interact with other authentication systems such as Aadhaar. An uncooperative stance means that software developers must seek alternative middleware alternatives to link Aadhaar to existing and ubiquitous phone platforms including Apple iOS and Google Android.