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Government Privacy Science

India's Billion User Biometric Odyssey 81

mask.of.sanity writes "A bold new biometric identity system is being deployed across India in a bid to combat rampant welfare fraud. The mammoth system will collect the iris and fingerprint records on a voluntary basis of every one of India's 1.2 billion men, women and children. The Aadhaar project runs three trillion biometric identity matches every day — all on a small data center of commodity blade servers."
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India's Billion User Biometric Odyssey

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2013 @03:21AM (#45033345)

    This was rolled out 2 years ago.
    The intended use:
    When a unique ID is issued, you can optionally associate a bank account with it. Govt. will transfer welfare benefits directly to that account, "avoiding" corruption. Many are miffed by this as they stand to lose control over, benefit distribution and there by votes.

    System abuse scenario is plenty, as your iris scan, finger prints(all 10) are associated with the ID.
    Funnily, the ID states that this is only for identification, and not a document of citizenship.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2013 @03:30AM (#45033383)

    The basic problem TFA starts with, is too much bureaucracy, too many different systems. Many people carry four redundant forms of identification. And now, they carry five, at least for the next few years.

    Worse, once this system is fully implemented and the other four are finally phased out... there's only one, with the useful property that if someone still manages to impersonate you (and they well might, there's a lot riding on the ability so they'll work something out) you've become a threat to the system and are best just kicked out. No replacement passport for you. You've become expendable.

    Don't think they won't. This is a country where family members might, and occasionally do, bribe the local clerk to have you declared dead of natural causes, so they can take over your land and other belongings. Biometrics can't solve that, it can't make corruption go away, but it certainly can make problems all of its own.

    And it does. Just starting with the huge databases it needs to work. We all know how the most enlightened and freedoms and liberties celebrating government of the world proved to actually treat my and your data. Now try again with a less well-paid, bigger, more corrupt government.

    It's not that these people don't have good intentions. It's that they're making all the classic mistakes, from making the humans puppets of the machine, to believing they won't be corrupt, honest, to massive overreach and starry-eyed wishful thinking. With biometrics sauce to make it all the more hip and in and cool and inescapable and unfixable.

    Biometrics, just say no. Also, save us from government IT.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Friday October 04, 2013 @03:35AM (#45033397)

    This system is guaranteed to fail. As I understand it, the problem it is meant to address is welfare fraud - criminals collecting the welfare of the poor for themselves.

    Best case, this works for a year or two as the criminals figure out how to spoof the biometrics. Maybe local gangsters force the poor people to give up their biometrics - take their prints and photos of their irises and then use copies (ala the recent iphone hack and the similar spoof via a photograph of the original iris). If the scanners at the welfare locations are manned, they just need to bribe the guy manning them into letting them use the spoofs. Undoubtedly the guy manning the system is going to be some low-paid peon anyway.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Friday October 04, 2013 @04:59AM (#45033671)
    This is SERIOUSLY being discussed as just an IT issue, without any of the MASSIVE social and political issues involved?

    I'll pass.
  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:34AM (#45033767) Homepage

    That is the problem biometrics were INTENDED to solve. But all wishful thinking aside, so far nobody has been able to DESIGN a biometrics system that actually solves it.

    Nirvana fallacy [wikipedia.org]

    Just because it doesn't solve the problem 100% doesn't mean it isn't damn useful.

    I'm not saying it isn't evil, but in India it may be the lesser of two evils.

Loose bits sink chips.