India’s Government Prepares to Catalog its Population, All of Them

Creepy Biometric IDs to Be Forced Onto India’s 1.2 Billion Inhabitants

By Ranjit Devraj|Alternet

Fears about loss of privacy are being voiced as India gears up to launch an ambitious scheme to biometrically identify and number each of its 1.2 billion inhabitants.

An Indian man walk past a census board with the day's estimate of the Indian population outside the International Institute for Population Science (IIPS) in Mumbai in July, 2009. India started counting its teeming billion-plus population on Thursday for a new census that will gather biometric data for the first time from across the vast and chaotic nation. Photo Credit: AFP/File - Pal Pillai

In September, officials from the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), armed with fingerprinting machines, iris scanners and cameras hooked to laptops, will fan out across the towns and villages of southern Andhra Pradesh state in the first phase of the project whose aim is to give every Indian a lifelong Unique ID (UID) number.

“The UID is soft infrastructure, much like mobile telephony, important to connect individuals to the broader economy,” explains Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the UIDAI and listed in 2009 by Time magazine as among the world’s 100 most influential people.

Nilekani is a co-founder of the influential National Association of Software and Services Companies and, before this assignment, chief of Infosys Technologies, flagship of India’s information technology (IT) sector.

According to Nilekani, the UID will most benefit India’s poor who, because they lack identity documentation, are ignored by service providers.

“The UID number, with its ‘anytime, anywhere’ biometric authentication, addresses the problem of trust,” argues N

Nilekani is a co-founder of the influential National Association of Software and Services Companies and, before this assignment, chief of Infosys Technologies, flagship of India’s information technology (IT) sector.

According to Nilekani, the UID will most benefit India’s poor who, because they lack identity documentation, are ignored by service providers.

“The UID number, with its ‘anytime, anywhere’ biometric authentication, addresses the problem of trust,” argues Nilekani.

But a group of prominent civil society organizations are running a Campaign For No-UID, explaining that it is a “deeply undemocratic and expensive exercise” that is “fraught with unforeseen consequences.”

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