India’s Biometric Program Puts a Billion Identities at Stake



India’s Supreme Court is reckoning with one of the nation’s most ambitious and contested initiatives in recent years: the biometric identification database known as Aadhaar. Aadhaar has amassed the data – including iris scans, photos, and fingerprints – of more than a billion Indians, and is supposed to improve the distribution of welfare benefits and reduce corruption. But critics argue it has gone too far, representing an intrusion into the lives of Indians as well as a security risk.


Host Afshin Molavi hears from scholar Keith Breckenridge about the colonial-era origins of biometric data collection. And he talks with journalist Samanth Subramanian about how Aadhaar has become de facto mandatory in India, and why that’s cause for concern.


You can read Samanth Subramanian’s article about Aadhaar for emerge85 here.


Cover image: Derrick L. Turner/Michigan State University