Data Disclosures around Aadhaar – The Facts

In the last few days, several Aadhaar ‘data leaks’ or more accurately, ‘data disclosures’ have come to light. You may have been alarmed by the sensational reporting around these . Be reassured: your digital identity remains secure!

SupportAadhaar brings you the facts:

  • The data disclosures reveal Aadhaar numbers and demographic information. This alone cannot be used to steal your digital identity.
    • Just as someone knowing your bank account number or debit card number, does not mean they can steal your money.
    • Your bank account number is printed on every cheque, without compromising your security. Demographic information is used in KYC and thus known to any bank or telecom provider you have taken services from, again without compromising your security.
    • However, no data disclosure is good. We strongly urge the UIDAI to take prompt action and ensure all providers do not reveal Aadhaar numbers publicly.
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  • The disclosures have NOT revealed any biometric information. Your biometric information and the central Aadhaar database remain secure
    • As long as your service provider uses biometric authentication and keeps its systems secure, you are not at risk. All service providers using Aadhaar authentication should ensure biometric verification.

 

  • The benefits of Aadhaar remain unaffected by this disclosure. None of the use cases of Aadhaar are affected.
    • Verifying identity & authenticity: Aadhaar authentication through biometrics remains unaffected. Digilocker allows Aadhaar document to be verified through QR code even without connectivity. This too remains unaffected.
    • Instant e-KYC, used to open bank accounts or secure SIM cards: Biometrics & 2 factor authentication make e-KYC more secure than earlier process that relied solely on physical documents. This too remains unaffected.
    • Aadhaar as a payment address: This use case is not affected by the leak, as long as the bank links the account to Aadhaar using customer authentication.  In fact, this is useful, since there is no need for the government to track the bank account of the customer!
    • Aadhaar as a means for Direct Benefit Transfer: This relies on Aadhaar as a payment address. As discussed above, this use case remains unaffected. The benefits remain – direct deposit into the recipient’s bank account means middleman cannot divert it, and the recipient can choose to receive the service from any provider, creating competition among providers.

 

  • Aadhaar, by design, is more secure than most other forms of identity, including Social Security Number
    • Through biometric authentication, Aadhaar makes identity theft very difficult!
    • Aadhaar is more secure than existing systems in India – e.g. paper documents, which can and do get forged
    • Aadhaar is more secure than existing systems abroad – e.g. identity theft in the United States through Social Security Number is easier because there is no biometric authentication
    • Best practice is to use Aadhaar authentication along with other layers of security (e.g. PIN / password / etc.), depending on the value and risk level of the transaction

 

  • However, no data disclosure is good. We strongly urge the UIDAI to take prompt action and ensure all providers do not reveal Aadhaar numbers publicly.
    • We hope that the reports revealing the data disclosures will trigger prompt action from UIDAI, to ensure providers do not reveal Aadhaar numbers publicly
    • These reports make the necessary debate on personal information and the proposed privacy law even more important. We hope these reports will help move the discussion forward

 

  • Any technology has benefits and risks. For India to progress, we must embrace technology and use it in the right way. This requires a sensible discussion by all.
    • The kind of sensationalism we are seeing on this issue only misleads people and holds India back from becoming a developed nation! We strongly oppose this sensationalism.
    • We support all efforts to improve the Aadhaar system. Let us make constructive suggestions and take all action to help improve the system!