The history of Aadhaar, what it is meant for and its current state in India part-2

A complete encapsulation about what the Aadhaar is meant for, what its history is and what the allegations about its security lapses mean for you.

0
185
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Benefits of the Aadhaar Card

  • The Universal Identity Card is a government-issued card which can be used as proof of identity, proof of residential address as well as a proof of age when applying for school admissions, college courses, and any government service.
  • It helps in easily availing government subsidies or programs administered by the Central and State governments of India.
  • It is the only card in India that can be availed online known as an e-Aadhaar. This is a downloadable and printable version of the physical copy of the Aadhaar card and can be accessed anywhere, anytime via a printout or the ‘mAadhaar’ app.
  • Since it is biometrically secured, it reduces the chances of individuals making fraudulent claims in order to claim benefits on your behalf and also ensures that there is no chance of subsidy funds being misappropriated to someone else since your bank account is linked to your Aadhaar number.
  • It makes the process of KYC (Know Your Customer) extremely hassle-free since the Aadhaar number is a ready record of all your personal details. This, in turn, makes processes like acquisition of an Indian passport within 10 days, instant opening of bank accounts, obtaining the ‘Jeevan Pramaan for Pensioners’ or the Digital Life certificate for a pensioner (without having to be physically present in order to receive pension), direct transfer of LPG subsidy into bank account, Provident Fund transfers into bank of choice, and easy filing of IT returns by quoting your Aadhaar number easier than ever before!

Cons of the Aadhaar Card

  • The biggest concern educated Indians have about the Aadhaar is that the Aadhaar Project is being handled by foreign private companies (L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Co Pvt. Ltd an American biometric service provider, Morpho – a French multinational biometrics firm, PwC PricewaterhouseCoopers India – Audit and consultancy firm headquartered in the UK, Accenture Services Pvt. Ltd. – management consulting firm headquartered in Ireland, etc.) and that they may misuse Aadhaar details of a billion Indians for their own research and development purposes.
  • Furthermore, an RTI application filed by Bengaluru-based Col Matthew Thomas reveals that contracts signed with foreign firms by UIDAI show that they got “full access” to classified data on the UIDAI servers. Currently, up to 300 private companies have access to the database for KYC purposes. This might lead to confidential data erosion towards the foreign companies and also threatens the privacy of the individuals of India.
  • Since the Unique Identification Scheme is a government of India initiative and it has the power to create new legislation in the Parliament, many experts believe that this centralization of power will create many issues for the people of India if the government uses this scheme as a political ‘power card’.
  • The Aadhaar Pay app also uses biometric authentication for making bank transactions at mobile ATMs and other third-party apps. This somehow makes it easier for people to manufacture fraudulent transactions by impersonating or capturing someone’s biometric details.
  • Most of the Indian population (30%) is uneducated about the ‘purpose’ of the Aadhaar. They need to be educated about the pros and cons of Aadhaar before being signed into the program.
  • Even though Aadhaar is a proof of identity, it can be spoofed in high-security areas by super-imposing an imposter’s picture on an Aadhaar printout since the card doesn’t have a chip (not a smart card) on it for immediate verification.
  • The 12-digit numerical is now being linked to every iota of a person’s life, which experts deem to be unnecessary and highly compromise-worthy by hackers and unscrupulous elements. For e.g. in some banking transactions, Aadhaar Identification (Aadhaar Pay) is being used in lieu of ATM, Debit or Credit Cards which poses a major security threat as the Aadhaar database is stored in a non-decentralized server which can be hacked with ease.
  • According to several Aadhaar data breach reports. Aadhaar enrollment centers are being cited as the major source of leaks. The government is still using third-party private companies for local Aadhaar registration and biometric data upgrades.
  • Concerns about data security, the privacy of the data, and data leak reports are being vehemently denied by the CEO of the UIDAI without any investigations (https://uidai.gov.in/images/news/aadhaar-data-leak-ki-baat.pdf). He has testified under oath of the Supreme Court of India that all reports are baseless and that Aadhaar cannot be hacked, whereas several security reports by ethical hackers and data security researchers point in the other direction.
  • IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also denies that the central Aadhaar database has been compromised whereas media reports spell otherwise.
  • Though Aadhaar is labeled as a voluntary scheme by the Supreme Court, it itself contradicts its statements by making the Aadhaar and new bank account linking mandatory for all citizens!
  • The privacy laws of our country are incomplete, far-fetched and improperly documented. In reality, our country does not have concrete and dedicated laws for privacy or data protection.
  • The biometric unique identification number is said to be shared with private entities under the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, only with the explicit consent of the Aadhaar holder, but on all e-KYC apps, you have no way of opting out of this loophole – only Aadhaar is being accepted by everyone!

Conclusion

It is very easy to surmise that the Government of India approved and UIDAI authorized Aadhaar is now slowly becoming a necessity for every scheme running in India – private and public. The government’s current stance of mandating that the Aadhaar is ‘uniform for all’ is not the right way to go. The Aadhaar card may finally be able make ‘equal’ the residents of India regardless of their social and economic status, but on the ground-level, India still languishes in severe poverty and backwardness in comparison to developed countries.

The Aadhaar is a step in the right direction, but it’s extremely swift implementation is becoming a massive pain! Unrealistic deadlines are being posted by many service providers to link personal details and documents with Aadhaar – even though the law clearly states that it is not mandatory!

UIDAI’s stubborn rejection of data breaches (https://uidai.gov.in/images/news/aadhaar-data-chori-farzi.pdf and https://uidai.gov.in/images/news/Aadhaar-biometric-info-not-breached-UIDAI-TOI.pdf) in the Aadhaar ecosystem is the biggest hindrance to the Aadhaar; wrongful usage of the Aadhaar by various agencies is being shielded in the garb of national security and ‘baseless rumors’. In fact, if you search on Google for ‘Aadhaar number name ‘filetype: xls’ you will get multiple excel sheets with Aadhaar numbers of lakhs of Indians!

This technocratic solution is still riddled with loopholes which the government is very unwary to fix. The Aadhaar speaks of a stringent de-duplication system (duplicate Aadhaar cards in the same name or locality), but India still has a duplicate/ fake Aadhaar card database of over thousands of Aadhaar cards in the name of Superman, Lord Hanuman and what not! But again, the UIDAI dismisses this whopping figure as negligible!

No one is ready to take the responsibility that the Aadhaar can be fixed. Everyone simply pushes the blame.  What are your concerns about the Aadhaar? Comment below!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here