India Rolls Out Project to ID 1.2B Citizens

World's biggest biometric ID program launched
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2010 6:56 AM CDT
The registration process takes between 15 minutes and half an hour.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – What could be the biggest IT project the world has ever seen gets under way today in a tiny hamlet in northern India. The village in Maharashtra has been chosen for the launch of India's ambitious project to collect fingerprints and iris scans from all of its 1.2 billion people—and assign them unique 12-digit ID numbers. Experts of Indian origin from around the world have been recruited to help with the massive project, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Registration is voluntary for now but the government, aiming to reduce fraud, plans to tie the biometric IDs to provision of social services. The project's backers say it will improve the lot of India's poor, who often have no documents to prove who they are. Some question whether India's less-than-reliable Internet infrastructure can handle that much data, but its creators promise that privacy will be strictly protected. Once the data reach central servers, "it never leaves, its like a black hole," the project's architect tells the Times of India.

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