The Truth Behind AADHAAR: Is it Safe?
Government, nowadays, is cautious while addressing demonetisation, GST implementation and sudden lockdown. These were moves that were hailed as Masterstrokes, as nothing like it ever happened in 70 years.
All of a sudden, we receive this response from the Government: “It might have its flaws, it might probably give you difficulties, but I am sorry, it’s the law of this country.” (eye roll)
If government’s mood is worse, we may even get an FIR or UAPA.
Another masterstroke that is under scrutiny, nowadays, is Aadhaar. Once its critic, Modi-ji is now Aadhaar’s advocate after his win. Imperfection was forgotten and Aadhaar became the backbone of Vikas (development), like direct benefit transfer, etc. Undoubtedly, the intent is good behind Aadhaar card – enables direct cash transfer, prevents duplication etc.
“Once considered full-proof identification system, now Aadhaar has many loopholes. Experts have been warning about Aadhaar security, now even the government is close to admitting it.”
But a revolutionary idea also needs attention of the experts and improvement. Intent merely is not enough. Once considered full-proof identification system, now Aadhaar has many loopholes. Experts have been warning about Aadhaar security, now even the government is close to admitting it.
On 27th May, 2022, a Government notice in PIB’s official website was presented that shook everyone. Firstly, it’s written in the notice, “Do not share photocopy of your Aadhaar with any organisation because it can be misused. Only those organisations that have obtained a User License from the UIDAI can use Aadhaar for establishing the identity of a person.”
But so far, we are asked to share Aadhaar photocopy with everyone, to avail any facility, but it was wrong. Now we have to learn where not to show Aadhaar and where to. But no comprehensive list of any kind has been found to guide us through it.
Secondly, it is advised in the press release to avoid using public computer at an internet café to download e-Aadhaar. And if done, then people have to delete all the downloaded copies of e-Aadhaar and the browsing history. Our government is unable to accept that Aadhaar system makes identity fraud easier. Fraudsters have found ways.
Thirdly, government advises us not to use our full Aadhaar number. Only masked Aadhaar to be used. Now, what is this masked Aadhaar card? We, the people had little idea of Masked Aadhaar before.
Now, this guideline has opened people’s eyes – that which thousands of news reports and articles couldn’t, this notice has achieved that. It is kind of an acceptance of guilt by this government. As once Government (UIDAI) had said – Aadhaar data is completely safe. People, then, started to lose faith in their beloved government.
Hence, as predicted, transparency and honesty was side-lined, and within 48 hours the previous Notice was withdrawn. Even during the withdrawal, same was advised by the government not to share photocopy of Aadhaar because it can be misused and exercise normal prudence. Meanwhile, people are busy watching debates on news channels.
Interestingly, this withdrawal notice also exposed the Government because if Aadhaar was full-proof then why it should be hidden. Security experts had pointed the need to secure Aadhaar ecosystem. If you research a bit, you will find Aadhaar is being misused in the market by fraudsters.
You may Google and discover tons of articles on it. Jharkhand scholarship scheme was a scam. Students’ fingerprints were obtained and no money received. Aadhaar is the backbone of Direct Benefit Transfer, but it is being openly misused.
Another misuse is through Aadhaar-Enabled Payment System (AEPS). Place your finger upon machine and you can get money from Government correspondent. This will ease withdrawing money from banks. But nobody thought the possibility of middle man doing the scam. They may process multiple transactions and give you money only for one. This scam is possible in rural areas.
Bigger scam is selling of personal data and cloning fingerprints. This can impact savings in bank accounts. In the last 3 years, frauds of 10 crore reported (many cases unreported) most of which, 6.5 crore, reported in 2021-2022. Where in rural areas, fingerprints are copied, in urban areas PAN and Aadhaar details used to apply for loan is misused. Loan is disbursed somewhere else but you have to pay the EMI for it. Government admits that this could happen, so it has advised us to always monitor our bank reports. (it is an added burden).
There are other ways to scam you like in phishing scam, when the sender wants to know your Aadhaar and OTP number to sweep in and empty your account. Some dark websites are selling cloned fingerprints. Your identity is for sale in the market. Occasionally authorized employees or bank staff may also be involved in sending data to the criminals.
Last week, a man was arrested for making 7000 fake Aadhaar cards while deceiving the government’s “full-proof” (read fool-proof) system. This is too much Vikas. Police is also warning about Aadhaar-enabled payment fraud.
Without consulting with the experts and making privacy a joke, linking Aadhaar to almost everything, we have given criminals a lead. The problem here is – Government is not fully ready to accept their mistake. Whenever such loopholes reveal, Aadhaar authority uses these terms as: Tokenized Aadhaar, Virtual Aadhaar, Masked Aadhaar etc.
Now, what is the solution to the core problem? Firstly, admitting that Aadhaar has flaws – is half the solution.
- Start using masked Aadhaar immediately. Go to UIDAI website and download masked Aadhaar.
- Don’t share your full Aadhaar.
- Speak up. Ask questions. Think twice before handing over your Aadhaar card to anyone.
Supreme Court has also said that Aadhaar should be of limited use to Government benefits. Does that mean, no Aadhaar for bank accounts, phone connections, private school admissions etc.?
Supreme Court also said that if all guidelines of Aadhaar are implemented then we may become a surveillance state – where every detail of ours would be provided to the Government without our consent – personal, mental, sexual, religious, financial. The end of privacy. Why would someone want that? So it is advised to be an aware citizen. Know your rights. Think outside the herd mentality.
Scams related to Aadhaar cannot fit in merely an article. You must read up on it. This is a simplified explanation of flaws of Aadhaar. Please be careful before sharing your Aadhaar number.
Images from different sources
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