Insights & Analyses

India’s Supreme Court could shake up Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric database – One World Identity

India’s massive Aadhaar identity system is under fire from privacy advocates in a new lawsuit, who seek to end or at least modify the program in order to better protect citizens’ biometric data.

India’s Aadhaar system features both fingerprint and iris identification of some 1.1 billion people. But critics are concerned that holding such personal data in a centralized database could be a major security risk and violation of privacy for India’s people.

Opponents filed a lawsuit looking to limit Aadhaar to specific purposes, which would significantly curtail the expansion of the program into private business use cases, such as Aadhaar-compliant user authentication in Microsoft’s Skype or the latest Samsung phones.

Now India’s Supreme Court is set to hear the case against Aadhaar, and according to Bloomberg the New Delhi justices could drastically change how Aadhaar will be used going forward. At issue is whether privacy should be considered a “fundamental right” for every citizen that should be protected.

To India’s government, privacy should not be considered a fundamental right. It has used that argument to make Aadhaar mandatory for all citizens.

The hearings will continue this week, where both the government and critics will present their sides of the case. A potentially significant ruling from the 9-person judicial body is expected in the coming weeks.