Technological innovation has helped countries grow and has aided businesses in generating profits for many years. However, in India recently, technology has even found a way to help feed India’s poorest. In the country of India, those living below the poverty line are allowed to buy basic food such as rice, sugar, and wheat at highly subsidized rates at government-run Fair Price shops. The shoppers at these stores have a plastic card with their photograph on the face of the card. After purchasing food, shoppers scan their smart cards and then the shop owner asks for something else—their fingerprints.
Shoppers in India are part of a project that’s uses biometric smart cards to deliver food to the poorest people in the country. In most places, families are given ration books that record how much food has been purchased instead of the biometric smart cards used in India. The smart card contains a microchip that stores the fingerprint, photograph, and other personal details of the cardholder. Like the ration books, it can also store a record of purchases made by every family. The biometric smart card technology will essentially eliminate fraud and ensure that government rationed food will reach the people who need it the most. Under the old paper system, people could easily use someone else’s ration book but biometric smart cards have corrected this problem.
This project is a great way to increase the efficiency of feeding a country’s poorest people. However, some fear has developed and building trust with this type of technology may be hard to achieve. The biggest fear is that the data held in the smart cards will be used in other ways. If these cards are used for the sole purpose of distributing government rationed food to the poor, few problems will result. But the data and purchasing records in these cards can be extremely valuable to other parties including businesses who could use the information to effectively make decisions based on a consumer’s purchasing history. If this situation arises, we must ask ourselves an important question: Is it ethical for businesses to have this much consumer information or should the rights of human privacy be protected?