Insights & Analyses

Airbnb, Uber may authenticate service providers with India’s Aadhaar biometric ID system

July 20, 2017

Major service providers including Uber and Airbnb are looking to tap into India’s national identity database, known as Aadhaar, in order to verify that drivers and hosts are who they claim to be, helping ensure the safety of clients.

Along with Airbnb and Uber, Indian ridesharing service Ola is also looking into Aadhaar integration in its home country, according to anonymous sources who spoke with BuzzFeed.

In fact, Airbnb is already testing Aadhaar integration with a “limited” number of hosts, the company confirmed, though hosts are given the choice as to whether they want to be identified through the national service.

As for Uber and Ola, the services want to not only identify drivers, but also collect demographic data.

Ola, in particular, is said to be planning to make Aadhaar authentication mandatory as of this month. The change comes after an Ola driver kidnapped a passenger for ransom a few weeks ago.

India’s Aadhaar is the largest and most sophisticated biometric identity system of any country in the world. But it scale has also sparked fears that the personal data it stores could be vulnerable to exploitation.

Some 1.1 billion people, or 90 percent of India’s population, are registered with Aadhaar, a unique 12-digit code tied to citizens’ biometric data and personal information. The system was launched in 2009 in an effort to extend social services to unregistered citizens, but also to cut down on welfare benefit “leakage” from an opaque and often corrupt bureaucracy.

Beyond identification, Aadhaar data is also being used to underpin mobile payment transfer platforms, which have become crucial for cashless transactions during the country’s recent demonetization push.