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India To Issue Over a Billion Biometric ID Cards 167

angrytuna writes "The Unique Identification Authority is a new state department in India charged with assigning every living Indian an exclusive number and biometric ID card. The program is designed to alleviate problems with the 20 current types of proof of identity currently available. These problems range from difficulties for the very poor in obtaining state handouts, corruption, illegal immigration, and terrorism issues. Issuing the cards may be difficult, however, as less than 7% of the population is registered for income tax, and voter lists are thought to be inaccurate, partly due to corruption. The government has said the first cards will be issued in 18 months."
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India To Issue Over a Billion Biometric ID Cards

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  • Awesome! (Score:1, Insightful)

    The best part about biometrics, is, when someone gets your fingerprint, or makes a mold of your face after knocking you out with a billy club, you can totally..... uuuuhhhh.... get..a new one?
    • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Funny)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @02:11PM (#28706093)

      also for all those people who are 1 in a million there are a thousand identical biometric cards.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by oodaloop ( 1229816 )
      Absolutely. After getting hit with the billy club, you would have a new face. The old mold would be useless!
      • After getting hit with the billy club, you would have a new face.

        Depends where they hit you.

        That's where anatomically. It wouldn't matter where in the geographical sense.

    • by Itninja ( 937614 )
      That's why three-factor security is the only real way to make this work. They have two factors already (something you have (card) and something you are (fingerprint)). Now if they could just close the deal with a PIN code (something you know), that would be the hat trick of security. They could even provide you with a 'duress' PIN that you could give someone if you were at gunpoint. It would automatically lock everything down. And the best part? When the systems that maintains all this fails, you don't have
      • by maxume ( 22995 )

        If you are at gunpoint and everything gets locked down, you are no longer useful.

        At least something to take into account when dealing with people willing to point a gun at you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @02:10PM (#28706089)

    I hope they don't have to stand in a queue!

    • will they run into arithmetic bugs similar to Y2k, ie after the 999,999th issued card will the next one roll back to Zero?
    • Re:Billionth Indian (Score:4, Informative)

      by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:07PM (#28706817)

      Indians do not stand in queues. They stand in masses and push and shove to get to the front.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by S7urm ( 126547 )

        troll much?

        If I were an Indian I'd be pissed that you can sterotypically say that all Indians are inpatient and rude, and get marked +5 Informative.....

        You should have a -10 D0uchebag Mod

        • Re:Billionth Indian (Score:5, Informative)

          by powerslave12r ( 1389937 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @05:46PM (#28708793)
          I am an Indian and what he's saying is true. Its not about being impatient and rude, its about making it or getting left behind. It may sound like a troll, but things actually ARE like that. If you want some thing to be done, there's two ways to do it India:

          1. Pay someone (generally a middle-man/agent) and get your work done (be it anything, from getting a new phone connection/water connection/submitting some form for your passport etc).

          2. Stand with the crowd, elbowing, pushing and shoving for hours before you're told to come back with more documents.

          True story. I've done this everywhere including filling up any University form, to getting my passport, to getting into a train/bus to just plain old admissions into any college/school.

          Grandparent is not trolling, but stating an absolute truth.
  • Difficulty (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Issuing the cards may be difficult

    But spending the money sure won't.

    In the business of government, as long as the money passes through your hands, you win.

  • Every single person in India should be assigned a 30-bit identification number. Problem solved!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      From TFA -- "It is surely the biggest Big Brother project yet conceived. India is to issue each of its 1.2 billion citizens..."
      2^30 = 1,073,741,824

      Every single person...

      And what about married persons?

    • by dodobh ( 65811 )

      We'll just use a pair of 128 bit numbers. One which identifies your current status. The other identifies your presence to the public world.

      Then we'll just route them ;).

  • Hmmmm (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder how many Bob Maharajapurams there are. I seem to get him every time I call tech support.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You do know they dumb down their names so the verbally challenged (with dumb queries in the first place) Americans can pronounce them correctly? The smart Americans don't call tech support most of the times. []
  • "German police can detain people who are not carrying their ID card for up to 24 hours."
    Papers, please!

    Sigh, if it hasn't happened already, SOMEBODY in the US government is going to try to convince us that we need to be more like India!

    However, maybe this current clusterfuck will tie up so many Indian programmers, the US won't be able to export any more jobs.

    • by davidwr ( 791652 )

      Given the IT ramifications, I think you mean:

      However, maybe this current clusterfSck will tie up so many Indian programmers, the US won't be able to export any more jobs.

      There, fixed that for you.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 )

      Papers, please!

      Uh, I only have a pipe, man.

      Zen you'll Haff to come vit me!

      (From "A Child's Garden of Grass")

      • by Quetzo ( 753720 )


        India actually happens to be among the handful of countries in the world where consumption of marijuana is legal. It's the *only* country in the world where such consumption is sanctioned by the government. You can walk up to a govt. run store, hand the dude some cash and walk away with a bag of reefer.... good times...

    • by pjt33 ( 739471 )

      What can they do to people who go longer than 24 hours without carrying their ID card?

    • German police can detain people who are not carrying their ID card for up to 24 hours.

      Not quite. There is no law in Germany to carry an ID. The police has the right to require an identification in certain cases (more or less analogue to the stop and identify statutes in some US states) and they have the right to detain a person for 12 hours (they would need a warrant for that, though) and to search the person if the identification is not possible.

  • America has over 50 types of commonly used ID, and that's not even counting the several types of ID cards and drivers licenses that some states have, nor does it count military IDs, civilian-government-employee IDs, university-issued IDs, passports, and more.

    • by fl!ptop ( 902193 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @02:49PM (#28706561) Journal

      America has over 50 types of commonly used ID

      and you're not required to have any of them to live in the u.s.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 )

      Yes, but many (most?) have more than one of them. Most military personnel, for example, have their military ID, state drivers' license, and motor pool personnel have military drivers' licenses. Plus you have tour Social Security card (the one I lost last month when my wallet was stolen said "not to be used for identification purposes" but the new ones don't say that). many folks have passports, etc. in addition to their state licenses.

      Personally, I'm against a national ID card, or for requiring ID for most

    • That's because America has 35 countries.
  • My driver's license has my photograph. Is that not a biometric?

    When my wallet was stolen all I should simply had to go to the DMV and sign something, which would have verified my signature, and my photo would have verified that it was me. When I was pulled over, all I had to do was tell the cop my SS number and he could see that I was me and was licensed (I was warned to fix my tail light).

    The DMV required an alternate form of ID (I'd already replaced my YMCA card; the Y was where the wallet was stolen) and

    • by Itninja ( 937614 )
      No, you picture is not a considered true 'biometric' because it requires a human to decide 'sure I guess this looks like you'. Now if they actually assigned metrics to your facial structure that might work....unless you had an identical twin, but I digress.

      Also, this statement:

      The process was ludicrous, even though it only took a few minutes.

      Made me think you need to watch this video [].

      • No, you picture is not a considered true 'biometric' because it requires a human to decide 'sure I guess this looks like you'.

        You mean like "Your fingerprint LOOKS like a 10-point match to the one we have on file" or "The DNA test output from your blood LOOKS like the one on file"?

        Just as there are "face twins," two people whose faces are so similar they can be confused, there are probably "10 point fingerprint twins" and "current-generation-dna-test" twins among the earth's billions of inhabitants.

        • by mcgrew ( 92797 )

          My daughter bought me a book for Christmas last year, 100 things you're not supposed to know, and one of them was that DNA is unreliable, and gave reasons and citations.

          More than half of the stuff in the book I already did know, I guess I'll be getting a call from Homeland Security...

          • Reliability of DNA (Score:2, Insightful)

            by davidwr ( 791652 )

            In a perfect world, DNA is reliable. The world isn't perfect. There are problems with collection and contamination, problems with human error and incompetence, and the fact that we rely on only a partial DNA sampling rather than a complete sequencing. This is further complicated by mutations within our own bodies and the occasional case of a person with more than one DNA, either due to a congenital issue, organ or bone marrow transplant, or other issue.

            IMHO every supposed DNA match should be confirmed wit

        • by Itninja ( 937614 )
          sigh, no. You are missing the 'metrics' part of biometrics. When a fingerprint enters a database it notes such things as how many microns each swirl is form the others, retina images use a similar set of metrics. These are dispassionate numbers not open to human interpretation.

          With the image on the license none of this information exists. There is no way to determine how many centimeters the bridge of your nose is from the ridge of your brow, or the circumstance of your skull.

          But you make a good point abo
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Except that if Illinois is like many states, the fact that your photograph is on your license doesn't do the DMV any good when you have lost your license. Most states don't have your photograph on file. They send you a renewal form. You sign it and send it back along with the fee for renewal. They send you a form that you take to the appropriate location where your picture is taken and a license is printed with your picture on it. This picture never enters the state's database.
      • by mcgrew ( 92797 )

        No, the photo was on file, I didn't have to have the photo taken again. I showed my bank statement and YMCA card, gave them five bucks, and in less than five minutes had a new license. You only have to get re-photographed when you renew your license, and the new photo goes into the database replacing the old one.

        If you get pulled over, the cop can look your photo up. Technologically backwards we ain't; one of the worlds most powerful supercomputers is at U of I at Champaigne/Urbana, and the world's largest

      • Most states don't have your photograph on file.

        Maybe 20 years ago, but not today. Nowadays most states are selling their databases, including photos and everything else they have on you, to private companies. Look up the DPPA (Driver's Privacy Protection Act) - it is one of those laws with a contrary name, it restricted a couple of really blatant abuses in exchange for expressly legalizing all kinds of other abuses.

    • by CompMD ( 522020 )

      Maybe you never got to experience the horror that was George Ryan. Things are much better and more streamlined since Jesse White took over. Everything it more reliable, runs faster and more efficiently, and keeps the public from going completely bonkers. I interned at a DSF for a couple summers in college. Things to note:

      - Central database is a massive IBM mainframe and the reps are using what is essentially a custom telnet client to access the forms and processes for their usual work.
      - Reps also have a

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 )

        It isn't very fair to compare White to a convicted felon, now is it? Yes, he's head and shoulders above Ryan.

        Central database is a massive IBM mainframe

        I took a class at a local college, and the instructor was one of the supervisors there. The whole class got a tour, and it was very interesting and informative. That computer was badass! I especially liked the dual natural gas generators for a backup power supply. It was awesome!

        Also, there is the problem of twins, which I experienced once. One passed her dr

  • Beep! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @02:24PM (#28706247)

    Unique Identification Authority

    Huh. Did they have a contest to come up with the most Orwellian sounding name? Are they a section of the Department Of Bureaus? :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 )

      Unique Identification Authority

      Huh. Did they have a contest to come up with the most Orwellian sounding name? Are they a section of the Department Of Bureaus? :)

      I think they're part of the Department of Redundancy Department.

    • Re:Beep! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @02:52PM (#28706601) Journal

      Did they have a contest to come up with the most Orwellian sounding name?

      Well, they had to find a name that wasn't taken.

    • by martas ( 1439879 )
      could be worse. they could have called it Big Brother's Phonebook. but i guess the UK has dibs on that name...
    • by ignavus ( 213578 )

      Unique Identification Authority

      Huh. Did they have a contest to come up with the most Orwellian sounding name? Are they a section of the Department Of Bureaus? :)

      Apparently they hang out next door to the Ambiguous Identification Authority.

  • by hansraj ( 458504 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @02:28PM (#28706295)

    Not that I look forward to being in a huge database, but I am curious how long it will take given that things are so chaotic in India.

    Some years ago when the government decided to issue voter cards for everyone eligible to vote, everyone in my family who qualified went to get photographed etc and some months later the cards turned up... with everyone's data mixed up. So my father was not only a woman but the daughter of my sister who happened to be the wife of my mother and so on. And pretty much every family in the neighborhood had their's screwed up as well.

    So one billion people and at least two trials.. I would give the program at least 10 years - and that is being optimistic, I think.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 )

      Heh, here in Illinois our voter cards are made of paper and don't even have a photo on them. The election judges seldom ask for them. We're so patriotic that even being dead doesn't keep us from voting!

      Kind of makes you realize how George Ryan [] and Rod Blagojevich [] got elected Governor (Ryan is in prison now, Blago was impeached and removed from office and goes to trial next year).

    • by Tolkien ( 664315 )
      Because of the massive amount of corruption and general crime, this is doomed to failure. Issuing an ID card to someone who has no possessions or living quarters will make them a ripe target for identity theft I imagine.
  • Lets just hope that these guys learn from the Germans and have a GOOD BACKUP of the private key for the CA. Although, I wonder how much the manufacturer of the cards would be willing to pay the operators to "loose" the backup tape.

  • by drDugan ( 219551 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @02:35PM (#28706371) Homepage

    Given the corruption they have now, what makes them think corruption won't continue?

    Stealing someones biometric data will mean an increasing arms race for technology to identify someone. It will eventually fail as corrupt agencies and criminals have the same methods to read biometry data and create the id cards. As a way to slow this down - do not give the biometric data to the person, explained thus:

    Instead, people should be issued replaceable, hard to fake credentials (ID cards) - that do NOT have biometric readings on them, rather just a long random number. These would be easy to read - and the random number identifies the holder.

    Creation and issuing of credentials would be done only based on government-run biometric scans. The identifying agency keeps the biometric data secret at the time of issue or re-issue, and links the biometric data to the replaceable credentials/random number.

    This way if an ID is stolen or in dispute, the person comes in, gets scanned again and a new credential/card/random number is issued and the old one is cancelled.

    This allows one upside: no big, central DB of biometric data - each local area keeps their own. By removing a central identity DB, corrupt officials will have smaller targets to break.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Part of the corruption with ID in India right now is unpersons, people with no ID and who have been 'lost' in the records. Asshats (who probably payed someone to lose the records in the first place) will then go in and claim that person's property as public land, since that person can't prove it belongs to them anymore. A better ID sceme and a central database will hopefully alleviate the problem, even if there are still other exploits in the system to be used.

      • Even if this scheme fixes that problem I'm sure it will open up brand new opportunities to take advantage of people in interesting and creative ways.

  • Yeah, I agree that we need a new Slashdot category.

  • There are many bad ideas about a biometric id card, but the one good thing about it should be the ability to FIX the problems they mentioned with no accurate census. Each person gets one card, they give fingerprints and show some kind of name proof. If the fingerprint is in the system, you don't get another ID.
  • The "predicted cost of £3 billion" (from TFA) works out to a cost of £2.50 per card per person. Anyone else think this seems a little optimistic, given I think highly secure identity cards cost a little more than that to manufacture, never mind the infrastructure costs involved?

    (P.S. trying to get pound symbols to show up on Slashdot from an American keyboard sucks)

    • I think your guess is approximately correct. While the article is actually quoted with "a predicted cost of at least 3 billion", assuming India's government proposals being as understated as anything western I think we can guess 3-5 times that amount.

      Without the mention of which biometric is being used, or how the biometric will be read an estimate of cost is useless. The usual overhead of running a special department, enforcement of rules, dealing with counterfeits & more should also be considere
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bhagwad ( 1426855 )
      Spot on - the UK recently gave up on ID cards [] because it was (amongst other reasons) too costly.

      How on earth is India going to afford it with 20 times the population and 51 times less per capita GDP? Something's not right here.
  • by rev_sanchez ( 691443 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:15PM (#28706923)
    From the article: The Bush Administration resisted calls for an identity card in the US after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

    I guess it would be more accurate to say, "The Bush Administration resisted calls for an identity card in the US after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 until he signed the Real ID Act into law in 2005." []
  • Did anyone else hear Iron Maiden in their heads as they read that headline?

  • We needed this ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sukhbir ( 961063 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:30PM (#28707117)
    very badly. Considering there are different cards for almost everything in which you need an identification check, this was long required. I have card A for casting my vote, B for getting my LPG supply for cooking, C for getting subsidized food. If I lose any one of them, I have to go through the entire process again which involves around four to five working days and bribing corrupt government officials who are not ready to work. For getting a thing as simple as cellphone connection, I have to submit at least 3 identification documents - my voter card, my driving license and a college confirmation letter (in case you are a student). This has been done to check the use of mobile phones by terrorists, but since there is no standardized identification, it hurts the common man who just needs to get his work done. We are all looking forward to this. Lets just hope it gets through.
    • Don't you think that the problem is too many unnecessary id checks in the first place?

      Why should you need an ID to get cooking gas?
      Is the terrorist problem really so big that an ID is necessary to get a mobile phone and does requiring an ID really make a difference to the terrorists anyway?

      Instead of more bureaucracy and thus opportunity for corrupt bureaucrats to require their bribes wouldn't it make sense to minimize the roadblocks to the common man rather than building them up in ever more elaborate stru

  • Well I hope the Indian government knows that the 32-bit ID space is probably a tad too cramped...
  • Having spent a lot of time in India, those guys couldn't organize a meeting about writing an article about a potential piss up in a brewery. And this is the private sector, as soon as the Government gets involved there would be 400 forms to fill out in triplicate before discussing the running of the meeting (or the "runnage" of the meeting). And lets hope the people wanting to start the meeting are licensed organisers.

  • by Thaelon ( 250687 )

    less than 7% of the population is registered for income tax, and voter lists are thought to be inaccurate, partly due to corruption

    So the reason the current system don't work is only 7% of the population is paying income tax, and there is lots of corruption.

    So the solution is a massive new government initiative [] to work around the cause of the current problems.

    Yep, sounds like bureaucracy to me.

  • ...charged with assigning every living Indian an exclusive number and biometric ID card...

    Only the "living" Indians - well that's a relief. Of course, they believe in re-incarnation, so ...

  • by aaandre ( 526056 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @04:33PM (#28707927)

    Watch your Overlords as they beta test your future in 3rd world or smaller countries.

    China, New Zealand, Finland, Thailand: Internet Censorship under different pretexts.
    India: Biometric IDs.

    Feel free to add to the list.

  • Why not just tattoo the information directly onto their forehead or hand?
  • It will never work. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bikehorn ( 1371391 )
    It's India. If you don't understand, spend some time there, and not just going to touristy sites. It just has no chance of succeeding as a universal replacement IMO.

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry