Using Aadhaar for Skype calls: Minister okay with Microsoft plan

On the meeting with Satya Nadella, Prasad said: “He expressed great confidence in India’s emerging digital profile…We discussed possibilities of enhancing cooperation with Microsoft in various areas of Digital India”.


Microsoft’s plan to link its video calling service Skype with the Aadhaar database for making authenticated calls with government institutions and others is expected to move further with Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad indicating his consent to the plan, said a source privy to the minister’s meeting with Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella here on Monday.

On the meeting with Nadella, Prasad said: “He expressed great confidence in India’s emerging digital profile…We discussed possibilities of enhancing cooperation with Microsoft in various areas of Digital India”.

Microsoft has already launched a pilot programme to use the Aadhaar database and integrate it with Skype that would allow users to authenticate themselves with using that identification system with a fingerprint or iris scan and then communicate with someone on the other end, maybe even a government agency.

In February, on his visit to India, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer Brad Smith had said that the proposed system could be used to enable people to testify in a government proceeding or get a licence.

The Aadhaar system relies on biometrics, which are considered the most accurate for establishment of a unique identity. The programme uses a combination of fingerprints, retina scans, and photographs.

However, sources within the government said that before seeing the light of the day, Microsoft’s project may run into some hurdles now that a new Aadhaar law is in place that lays increased emphasis on protecting the privacy of citizens.

The new law places several restrictions on when and how the Unique Identification Authority of India, the nodal body of Aadhaar, can share data. The law particularly notes that the biometric information of those enrolled with Aadhaar will not be shared with anyone.

During discussions over the new law in the Parliament before it was passed, Minister of Finance Arun Jaitley had said that while bio-metric data will strictly not be shared with anyone, some data can be shared with consent of the individual.