That’s the headline of my most recent story, written with a colleague, out yesterday.
India’s highest court ruled that the world’s largest biometric identification database doesn’t infringe on citizens’ privacy rights—but needs some new limitations.
The country’s controversial Aadhaar program uses photos, finger and eye scans and has already signed up more than 1 billion people. It has sparked an intense global debate over how far a democracy should be able to go in collecting the personal data of its citizens and how that data can be used, shared and protected.
Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling was a response to multiple challenges to the system.
A five-judge panel ruled in a 4-1 decision that the program is constitutional and helps the poor by streamlining disbursement of welfare benefits. Being in the database, however, shouldn’t be required for using mobile phones, opening bank accounts or for school admissions, according to the 1,448-page document outlining the court’s decision. It had been unclear for some time whether such organizations could compel people to supply Aadhaar numbers.
“It’s a historic judgment,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said. “Everyone must realize, including critics of Aadhaar, that you can’t defy technology or ignore it.”
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