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India Forcing Apple, Google, Samsung To Embed Aadhaar Biometric ID Tech Into Smartphones

The year 2016 hasn't been a favourable one for the relationship between the Indian government and global tech giants. After the Modi government decided not to allow Apple from opening its own stores in India and banned Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook's free web service called Free Basics, the Indian government is now forcing the tech giants to make use of a technology grown in a lab funded by the government.

The whole drill is a part of India's national biometric identity program named Aadhaar, also referred to as Unique Identification Authority of India (UID).

Last month, we reported that the UID is currently working out ways through which they can make smartphones as a one-stop tool for the purpose of instant identity authentication and allow the citizens receive all the government services working on the Aadhaar platform without any hassle.

According to a Bloomberg report, in order to let the tech giant's know about its plan, the Indian government had recently invited them for a discussion on the same. The names invited included Google, Samsung, Apple and Microsoft. Out of the big four, Apple decided to give the meeting a miss.

According to sources, UID's head Ajay Bhushan Pandey had called upon a meeting a few weeks ago to discuss the government's idea of embedding the government-funded biometric technology into all tech products being sold in the country. While Apple didn't turn up, others who did attend the meeting didn't show much enthusiasm in supporting the Indian government's plan.

The Aadhaar project, which took birth in September 2010, is the world's largest such program. The project aims as collecting biometric information of all Indian citizens and store the digitized data in a centralized database. According to April 2016 figures, about 83 percent Indian citizen have already registered with Aadhaar.

With Aadhaar, the Indian government is able to monitor criminals taking advantage of the country's welfare system and siphoning off billions of dollars. In addition to this, the government is also using the service to directly send pension, work payments and welfare allowances to the bank accounts of the under served citizens of the country.

In order to take its Aadhaar movement forward, the government has recently launched a digital payments infrastructure built on top of its this initiative. The main purpose here is to bring financial services to the world's second largest population, where millions of its citizens still don't have a bank account.

UID claims that it is currently doing some 5 million authentications on a daily basis, and it is hopeful with Aadhaar-compliant devices in action, this number will only grow by leaps and bounds. According to Pandey, there is a solid business case for tech companies to enable Aadhaar services on their devices.

While the Indian citizens would still access their smartphones using their respective manufacturer’s biometric authentication. But once the users start accessing Aadhaar using the government’s encryption, Google and Apple etc. will no longer be able to track users online, which would result in them losing their ability to mine that data and put it to use to sell ads or other services and products.

In addition to this, one other reason why global tech giants are a little sceptical of embedding the Aadhaar technology on their product because of security reasons. It's important to note, that in the past, tech giant Apple has shown strong resistance to even the U.S. government when it demanded the company to build them a back door into its OS so that the law enforcement forces can keep a tab of the movements of terrorists and criminals.

While the global tech giants might be resisting now, they might have to give in to the government's demands in order to keep itself on the top of their game and keep a competitive edge over the local companies. Indian companies like Paytm, Snapdeal, and Flipkart have already made their digital payments and services compatible with the government's Aadhaar.

Currently, Samsung is the only global name manufacturing an Aadhaar-friendly tablet. In addition to this, Microsoft has also joined hands with the Indian government to link Skype with the Aadhaar database. This will allow the video calling service to be used to make authenticated calls. Having recently fought an intense battle with Washington over the issue of encryption, Google, Apple and other major U.S. technology companies are most likely in no mood to settle with the Indian government without giving them a tough fight.

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