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SpringRole verifies IDs like Aadhaar and Voter ID via WhatsApp; Privacy and legal concerns

On February 27, HR tech firm SpringRole India Pvt Ltd launched a WhatsApp-based tool that can authenticate any person’s government IDs — Aadhaar card, PAN card, voter ID and driver’s licence — by comparing them with data on government databases, using third-party APIs. API, or Application Programming Interface, is a software protocol that allow two programs to interact with each other. In this case, the APIs allow a service provider to pull data from government databases. SpringRole's service returns data on the ID submitted to it from four government databases: UIDAI, NSDL, Electoral Roll, and Sarathi. It also does facial verification: comparing a photo on an ID with a photo submitted via WhatsApp. The tool was initially free for the first 1,000 users, and later for 2,500 due to demand, Anoop Suresh, the VP of Business and Operations at SpringWorks, the parent brand, told MediaNama. As of the evening of February 28th, 24 hours after the launch, 1,300 people had used it. After this trial run, the company will charge users ₹49/person, initially via Razorpay, and plans to move to WhatsApp Pay eventually. In light of the ambiguity around private access to Aadhaar data, and the suspension of licenses of AUA/KUA firms following the Supreme Court judgment on Aadhaar, the tool's verification of Aadhaar information is concerning. In addition, the tool was initially launched without a privacy policy; it is only after concerns were raised on Twitter and after MediaNama spoke with the company’s marketing head Abhash Kumar that the…

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