Early 2012, and Aadhaar is threatened with termination. UIDAI saves the project by publishing two papers on the reliability of the mass consumer biometrics technology used by Aadhaar:
• Role of Biometric Technology in Aadhaar Enrollment
• India boldly takes biometrics where no country has gone before
The claimed biometric failure to enrol rate was 0.14%. The claimed false positive identification rate was 0.057%. The claimed false negative identification rate was 0.035%.
Such figures were and still are several orders of magnitude better than anyone had or has ever achieved for mass consumer biometrics.
How did UIDAI claim that Aadhaar would achieve them with a population of 1.2 billion people? Answer, by ditching biometrics based on face recognition, adopting flat print fingerprints and irisprints combined to form a single multi-modal biometric and by using three competing matching algorithms. Any other approach, UIDAI said, was doomed to "catastrophic failure".
Five years later, have UIDAI achieved those impressive performance figures? An independent audit is required.
If they have, will the suppliers of the biometrics systems in use warrant their performance? If not, why not?
If they have, then the UK Home Office must explain why it continues to embrace "catastrophic failure". (The Home Office continue to fund face recognition, they no longer fund irisprints and they do not use competing matching algorithms.) And the UK Home Office must follow India by publishing its own performance statistics.
If UIDAI have failed to deliver, five years later, then Aadhaar will once again be in danger. So will every other government-backed mass consumer biometrics project in the world.