Apple and Google to encrypt smartphones in India with Aadhaar

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Sep 15, 2016, 1:02 am IST
Updated Sep 15, 2016, 7:20 am IST
Centre asks handset makers to use Aadhaar encryption; US firms may resist use of government ciphers.
The government is looking for Aadhaar-based smartphones which will be encrypted with a UIDAI key for secure connection with Aadhaar servers.
 The government is looking for Aadhaar-based smartphones which will be encrypted with a UIDAI key for secure connection with Aadhaar servers.

New Delhi: US-based mobile handset makers Apple and Google are expected to oppose the demand of the Indian government to encrypt smartphones with Aadhaar key.

The government is looking for Aadhaar-based smartphones which will be encrypted with a UIDAI key for secure connection with Aadhaar servers. The plan is to make smartphone one-stop solution for identity authentication for government services. This will stop the need for people to go to office to authenticate their identity to get government services as it will be done through smartphones.

Recently, the government had a meeting with executives from Apple Inc, Microsoft, Samsung Electronics Co and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to discuss embedding Aadhaar encryption into their technology.

Ajay Bhushan Pandey, chief executive officer of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which administers Aadhaar, told a news agency that the industry representatives listened politely and were non-committal. But Mr Pandey claims to have told these executives: “Go to your headquarters and work this out so that we can have Aadhaar-registered devices.”

However, companies like Apple and Google may resist opening up their phones and operating systems to the Indian registration, encryption and security technology.

They may also object to allowing the government to install its authentication software on their gadgets for fear of security breaches and hacking attacks.
In the past, Apple has resisted the US government’s demands to build a back door into its operating system so law enforcement can track the movements of terrorists and criminals.

“We will have to wait and watch. But companies like Apple may have concerns over privacy and cyber security. There are also privacy concerns over the entire Aadhaar database itself. Historically we have seen how Apple has resisted attempts of FBI,” Pavan Duggal, top cyber law expert and a Supreme Court advocate told this newspaper.

However, once an individual access Aadhaar using the government’s encryption, Apple and Google would lose the ability to track users online, forfeiting the ability to mine that data to sell ads or other products and services.

Samsung is the only global device-maker currently making an Aadhaar-friendly device. Microsoft is working with the government to link Skype with the Aadhaar database so the video calling service can be used to make authenticated calls.


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