There seems to have been some misunderstanding ensue between the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), at least its Bengaluru office, late last week as evident from press releases issued by the two.
On 27th May, the Bengaluru office of the UIDAI, under the letter head of MeitY, published a press release advising citizens against sharing photocopies of their Aadhaar cards, downloading them on public computers and so on. However on 29th May, the MeitY issued another press release press release recanting the UIDAI’s press release, saying that the Aadhaar Authentication ecosystem provides ‘adequate features for protecting and safeguarding the identity and privacy of the Aadhaar holder’.
“UIDAI issued Aadhaar card holders are only advised to exercise normal prudence in using and sharing their UIDAI Aadhaar numbers,” MeitY’s release said.
The sharing of Aadhaar numbers and other details has been highly controversial. In 2018, R.S. Sharma CEO of the TRAI, released his Aadhaar details on Twitter leading to users being able to pull up his physical address, phone numbers, email address and even order him a OnePlus 6, with cash payable on delivery. Further, publishing of Aadhaar details is illegal under the Aadhaar Act, 2016.
What did the press release say?
Use ‘Masked Aadhaar’, not photocopies: Users should not share photocopies of Aadhaar cards with anyone, and instead use ‘Masked Aadhaar’, downloadable from the UIDAI’s website, which shows only the last four digits of the Aadhaar number, the press release said.
Use MyAadhaar and QR codes to verify Aadhaar: An Aadhaar number can be verified from the UIDAI’s website, the release said. Further, it said that Aadhaar can also be verified through scanning the QR-code of an e-Aadhaar, Aadhaar letter (issued by the UIDAI) or the PVC Aadhaar card through the MAadhaar app of the authority. E-Aadhaar is an electronic copy of the Aadhaar, which is downloadable from the UIDAI’s website, and is e-signed by the authority.
Don’t download Aadhaar at cybercafés: Users should not download their E-Aadhaar at a public computer at a cybercafe or internet kiosk, the release said, adding that if they do so they should ensure that is later deleted from the system permanently.
Legal provisions regarding sharing and storage of Aadhaar: Any hotel or a cinema hall would not be authorised to collect or view an individual’s Aadhaar details, the release said adding that individuals should check if any entity has a User License from the UIDAI before sharing their Aadhaar with them
“It is an offence under the Aadhaar Act 2016. If a private entity demands to see your Aadhaar card, or seeks a photocopy of your Aadhaar card, please verify that they have valid User License from the UIDAI,” the release said.
Could lead to misunderstanding: MeitY’s reasoning for withdrawing release
As aforementioned, while MeitY said that the UIDAI’s infrastructure was sufficient to protect privacy, it said it was withdrawing the release as it could lead to misunderstandings. Further, it said that the release was released in the context of misuse of photoshopped (sic) Aadhaar cards.
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