Aadhaar has been a boiling issue in India for the past few months. Data theft cases for as little as Rs 500, fake software to create Aadhaar cards, and alleged ‘loopholes’ in the unique identity scheme have left a dent on its credibility. It has been facing increased scrutiny over privacy concerns following several instances of breaches and misuse. Despite all this, Aadhaar as a scheme has been appreciated by many prominent people all over the world.
India’s Aadhaar technology does not pose any privacy issue and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded the World Bank to take this approach to other countries as it is worth emulating, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has said.
Bill Gates is a lot of things. He’s the founder of Microsoft, one of the world’s richest men and arguably, the world’s most generous philanthropist. He’s also an advocate of the world’s largest biometric identification programme, the Indian government’s Aadhar scheme. It currently has over 1.1 billion Indian citizens enrolled.
Gates has said that the scheme does not pose any privacy issues. In an additional vote of confidence, he has also provided funding for World Bank projects to replicate the scheme in other countries.
As per reports, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded the World Bank to take this approach to other countries as well. “Nandan Nilekani, Infosys founder who is considered as the chief architect of Aadhaar technology, was consulting and helping the World Bank on the project,” Bill Gates said in a recent media interaction.
“The benefits of that (basic ID — Aadhaar) are very high. Countries should adopt that approach because the quality of governance has a lot to do with how quickly countries are able to grow their economy and empower their people,” Bill Gates added.
Bill gates further defended Aadhaar technology on privacy issues and stated that being just a bio ID verification scheme, Aadhaar poses no threat.
Gate’s remarks echo similar sentiments expressed in November 2017, when he said that he didn’t called Aadhar a “12-digit lie detector” and said that it didn’t intrude on people’s privacy by itself. It’s worth noting that he was also a big fan of the Indian government’s demonetisation move when it was launched, before changing tack the following month.
The Aadhar scheme has received a lot of backlash in recent years over security breaches, data leaks, its potential for mass surveillance and the fact that it requires the accumulation of several details of a person in a central database. There have also been fundamental concerns regarding the release of personal information to government agencies.
In response, the government has consistently downplayed these concerns and cited the scheme as a tool for empowerment and the distribution of benefits. In July last year, K.K. Venugopal, the Attorney General representing the central government, said that privacy could not be considered a fundamental right. The Supreme court disagreed, accordingly, stating the following month that privacy was “ intrinsic to the right to life”. Hence, in implementing of the scheme, the government will have to focus on ensuring the right to privacy.
The matter is still ongoing in the Supreme Court, and is said to be in its final stages. In the meantime, the linking of Aadhar details with mobile phones and provident fund accounts has been suspended, although the RBI still made it mandatory for opening a bank account, subject to the Supreme Court’s ruling.