Aadhaar Authentication for Govt Services Fails 12% of Time: UIDAI
UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey made the admission at the end of his presentation to the Supreme Court
UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey made the admission at the end of his presentation to the Supreme Court(Photo: The Quint)

Aadhaar Authentication for Govt Services Fails 12% of Time: UIDAI

UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey on 27 March concluded his presentation to the Supreme Court on the technological framework for Aadhaar with a remarkable admission: the UIDAI’s statistics show that Aadhaar-based biometric authentication for government services has a 12% failure rate.

According to slide 42 of Pandey’s presentation, the success rate of biometric authentication for government services has decreased from 96.4% in 2013 to 88% in 2018. During the same period, the success rate of authentication for private services, like banks and telecom companies has increased.

The statistics show a marked jump from the previous failure rate figures made available by the UIDAI of 0.04% (from 2012), and represent the first time the UIDAI has acknowledged such a high rate of failures in authentication for accessing government subsidies and benefits like the public distribution system.

What Does This Mean?

The UIDAI insist that this 12% failure rate does not necessarily mean that those whose authentication failed would be denied their subsidies, since alternative options are allowed instead. However, the UIDAI CEO had admitted on Thursday that the authority does not have any data on denials of services due to authentication failures or otherwise.

Multiple news reports have emerged over the last few years that point to denial of services because of Aadhaar authentication failures, and affidavits about exclusions caused by such failures were submitted by the petitioners when arguing against Aadhaar earlier in this case.

Experts, in fact, point out that the failure rate is only going to increase when the number of authentication requests increase, as is supposed to happen when it becomes mandatory to link Aadhaar to these services. It should also be noted that the deadline for this is 31 March 2018 when it comes to government services, benefits and subsidies — the petitioners’ lawyers tried to secure an extension for these services, but Chief Justice Dipak Misra refused to grant one. The deadline for extending private services, like bank accounts and mobile numbers, has been extended till such time as the case is decided.

The UIDAI CEO also clarified that they consider authentication to be a success even if preceded (on the same day) by multiple failures. Clarifications on this point have been sought from the UIDAI.

Rare Usage of PPT in Supreme Court

This is the first time the Supreme Court has ever allowed a powerpoint presentation to be made in the courtroom by a non-lawyer, and that too for such an extended period of time. In fact, PPT presentations have only ever been used once before in the apex court, by senior advocate Harish Salve.

The petitioners have submitted a set of questions to the court in relation to the presentation by Pandey. The Constitution Bench will resume hearing the arguments of Attorney General KK Venugopal on Tuesday, 3 April 2018, at which point it may put some of the questions submitted to Venugopal or Pandey.

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