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Digital dictatorship: Top Indian court upholds legality of largest biometric database Aadhaar

Staff Writer |
India’s Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the government’s Aadhaar system, the world’s largest biometric database containing the personal information of more than a billion Indians.

A five-judge bench at India’s top court laid down stringent new limits on how Aadhaar information could be used but said the benefits of the system outweighed any risks to privacy.

However, it cannot be made mandatory for opening bank accounts or providing mobile-phone connections, Justice A.K. Sikri told the courtroom, but it is required for Indians paying income tax.

The court in January began hearing a clutch of 27 cases challenging the constitutional validity of the system in hearings that stretched for 38 days, eventually becoming the second-longest case ever presented before the highest court.

The system, which now contains biometric and other personal information for more than 1.13 billon Indians, has spawned six years of legal challenges and been a lightning rod for debates about privacy, data sovereignty and digital governance.

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