Centre for Internet & Society

They are unlikely to oblige to request to make changes in their operating system and devices to ensure Aadhaar authentication is done securely on smartphones.

The article by Alnoor Peermohammed was published in the Business Standard on September 14, 2016. Sunil Abraham was quoted.

India is asking global makers such asand to adopt locally designed standards on their devices or operating systems that would allow use of biometric scanners for authentication, a move that could face resistance from global firms.

Apple, the world’s largest maker runs its own closed ecosystem and mandates apps built by developers to be certified by the company. Its closest rival Google, which owns the Android operating software that runs on nine out of ten smartphones in India, has directives for device makers to comply with. Firms such as Samsung, Lenovo and Micromax build smartphones on the Android OS that are sold in India.

Most global companies are unlikely to oblige India’s request that would require to make changes in their operating system and devices to ensure authentication is done securely on smartphones, say analysts.

“There is no clarity so far. As of now, it is impossible that they (global makers) would oblige for a hardware safe zone baked on the sensors,” says Sunil Abraham, executive director at Centre for Internet and Society, a Bengaluru-based  researcher that works on emerging technologies. “Because the biometrics contain sensitive personal information, they (UIDAI)  don’t want anybody — vmobile  manufacturer, OS vendor, telco or ISP — to intercept it”.

India is hoping that global firms would accept the country’s plea considering that most of India’s population use a mobile phone as their only computing device and need them to authenticate on for using government and banking services.

“Right now we’re in consultation with all these device manufacturers as well as the operating system vendors,” said Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Director General of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in a phone interview. “Basically we’re trying to evolve our system wherein a manufacturer or the devices where those operating systems are being used will have a facility where authentication can be made possible in a secure manner.”

India has over 105 crore people or 98% of adult population with Aadhaar. Most government and private organisations use authentication to issue services or products such as opening a bank account, getting a ration card or buying a mobile connection.

Reliance plans to reduce paperwork and issue connections in less than an hour usingand try to get its 100 million target market sooner.

Over a fifth of India’s one billion users own smartphones and as the country sees better mobile internet access, more people are expected to upgrade to smartphones and use apps to access their banks to transfer funds, do online shopping and access government services.