Last week, in the Lok Sabha, the Government of India acknowledged that some websites and mobile applications were providing un-authorised Aadhaar related services, “such as downloading online Aadhaar letters, providing status of Aadhaar generation, printing Aadhaar letters on Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Card etc. to residents.” The UIDAI has forwarded an official complaint to CERT-IN and Google India, and the websites have been blocked by the Department of Telecom, while the apps have been removed from the Google Play store.

This was in response to the following questions from MPs Gaurav Gogoi and Jyoriraditya Scindia:

(a) whether the Union Government is aware that several unauthorised agencies have been caught offering Aadhaar related services illegally and are charging excessive money from the public;
(b) if so, the details in this regard;
(c) whether the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has recently ordered to close down such fraudulent and illegal websites and mobile applications offering such services; and
(d) if so, the facts in this regard and the details of further steps the Government proposes to take against persons involved in running of such unauthorised agencies?

In February, the UIDAI had shut down 12 websites and 12 mobile apps, and 26 others were flagged for shutting down.

This was a few days after the UIDAI had warned unauthorized Agencies “not to collect Aadhaar information from general public for printing of Aadhaar card as collecting such information or unauthorized printing of Aadhaar card or aiding such persons in any manner amounts to a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment under Indian Penal Code and, also, Chapter VI of The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.”

What is surprising here is that the government hasn’t disclosed what action it is taking, apart from getting the apps and the sites blocked.

Also, we just checked and there still seem to be several apps on the play story which offer services related to the Aadhaar card. Who will monitor and shut down apps on a continuous basis? How is it that these apps are able to offer such services?

This is not the first time the UIDAI has taken action against private parties collecting Aadhaar data: last year, they had asked companies like eBay, Flipkart, Amazon etc., to not allow merchants on their platforms to collect Aadhaar information from the general public for printing Aadhaar cards.

As per the UIDAI website, 112,01,12,468 Aadhaar numbers have been generated so far.