India is seeking discussions with Apple about including state-funded biometric ID technology to authenticate its citizens, according to Bloomberg.

The government initiative is part of a national biometric identity program called Aadhaar (Hindi for 'foundation'), which already covers fingerprint and iris-scanning authentication across a range of public and private services including banking.

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Apple is expected to resist opening up its hardware and software to the registration, encryption, and security technology, but doing so could see the company excluded from India's thriving smartphone market.

One consulting group in India is predicting "a battle of ecosystems" between the state and tech companies. Indeed, signs of division already appear to have emerged. Just a few weeks ago, government officials are said to have invited executives from Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Google to a meeting to discuss embedding the technology into their devices, but Apple didn't even show up.

According to Ajay Bhushan Pandey, who runs the Unique Identification Authority of India and convened the meeting, company representatives who did attend listened politely but were noncommittal. However, Pandey says he was unequivocal about the government's position and told the executives to return to headquarters and "work this out so we can have Aadhaar-registered devices".

Since September 2010, India has collected citizens' biometric and demographic data and issued ID numbers to every man, woman, and child. More than one billion people have signed up to Aadhaar - over four fifths of the population.

The initiative is designed to catch criminals who defraud the welfare state, but civil liberties groups say the program violates public privacy. Despite opposition, the government is moving ahead with Aadhaar and recently rolled out a digital payments system built on the program, which is part of an effort to make financial services available to millions of people who don't hold a bank account.

Apple is expected to fight the government's demands following its recent public dispute with the FBI, which wanted to install a backdoor into the company's mobile operating system in order to provide access to data in criminal investigations. Apple insisted any such intrusion would make users' devices less secure and open to hacking. It appears to have won the battle in its own country, at least for now, but given that Apple's stance on Aadhaar could affect its access to a hugely lucrative overseas market, India could be a whole other story.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tag: India

Top Rated Comments

keysofanxiety Avatar
81 months ago

Indeed, signs of division already appear to have emerged. Just a few weeks ago, government officials are said to have invited executives from Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Google to a meeting to discuss embedding the technology into their devices, but Apple didn't even show up.
Damn. Tim Cook can be a badass. I bet he's formidable behind closed doors.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macintoshmac Avatar
81 months ago
No iPhones for India then. They can keep this initiative and their caste system.
Caste system in India, racism across the world. Same thing, different clothes. So, caste system is a moot point.

On another note, I for one am totally up for all international businesses giving India a middle-finger due to this. And I am against this only because this "initiative" by the government has no real benefit for the end user, but has every advantage for the government to keep track of citizens and mind you, this is only for taxation purposes, it is not that they will bother if this taxed citizen is able to make two ends meet or is victim to police harassment or anything. All they care about is tax revenue. This is something all political parties never have any argument about.

I have shame, and embarrassment, being Indian myself, but such actions by governments which have no benefit for citizens are just poor publicity and breed resentment alone.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Abazigal Avatar
81 months ago
Just the cost of doing business.

If you want to win over the users who care about privacy, then you have to be prepared to give up on the customers who want you to compromise on it.

Try to win over everyone, and you might just end up losing both sides.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
0815 Avatar
81 months ago
I don't like it if any government is getting involved in tech companies - especially in the context of security.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
69Mustang Avatar
81 months ago
Just imagine what Obama and US Gov would have to say about this India thing if they weren't trying to take away their own citizen's rights.
Obama is just a placeholder as it relates to a situation like this. Our government has been chipping away at liberties for a while. Democrat or Republican has nothing to do with this.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macintoshmac Avatar
81 months ago
This is typical governmental mentality of caging their own citizens in ANY way they can. These UID people haven't even told one single reason why they are even in talks about this. Just because it is a biometric enabled cellphone, and these guys happen to be collecting biometric data, they somehow think the two can play ball?

This is just another way of this government to grab the necks of its citizens anyhow. Being Indian, I am enraged and appalled. Gotta plunge the nation back into darkness, then we will all be secure and the government happy. I am really surprised at the wise-ass who even thought of something like this. Their brainpower works only in such domains as to how to hooch the citizens more and more. Nothing is being done about anything that really matters, and the some relief and respite that is, the government tries to stick its nose in that as well.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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