Topics in Privacy/ Technology in Government


Monday, December 9, 2013, 2:30pm to 4:00pm


Room K354, CGIS Knafel. 1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA 02138

TIP-TIG is a weekly session for brainstorming and discussing any aspect of privacy (TIP) or on technology in government (TIG), hosted by the Data Privacy Lab. Discussions are often inspired by a real-world problems being faced by the lead discussant, who may be from industry, government, or academia. Practice talks and presentations on specific techniques and topics are also common. This meeting occurs on the 3rd floor of CGIS Knafel; refreshments served at 2:30pm, discussion 3:00pm to 4:00pm. 

More information is available at

Presentation Details

Title: Biometrics in Beta - India's Identity Experiment

Discussant: Malavika Jayaram, Berkman Fellow

Abstract: India's identity juggernaut - the Unique Identity (UID) project that has registered around 450 million people and is yet to be fully realized - is already the world's largest biometrics identity scheme. Based on the premise that centralized de-duplication and authentication will establish uniqueness and eliminate fraud, it is hailed as a game changer and a silver bullet that will solve myriad problems and improve welfare delivery, yet its conception and architecture raise significant concerns. In addition to the UID project, there is a slew of "Big Brother" systems that together form a matrix of identity and surveillance schemes: the UID is intended as a common identifier across this matrix as well as other public and private databases. Indian authorities frame Big Data as a panacea for fraud, corruption and abuse, without apprehending the further fraud, corruption and abuse that joined up databases can themselves engender. The creation of a privacy-invading technology layer not simply as a barrier to online participation but to social participation writ large is not fully appreciated by policy makers. Malavika will provide an overview of the identity landscape including the implications for privacy and free speech, and more broadly, democracy and openness.