Monday, Nov 28, 2022

Flip-Flop On Aadhaar: Advisory Against Sharing Of Aadhaar Photocopies Withdrawn

Earlier, an advisory said only licensed entities can seek Aadhaar for identification and verification and you shouldn't share it with everyone.

Aadhaar cards. PTI Photo

After warning people not to share copies of their Aadhaar card with any person or organisation out of fears of its misue, the Union government has now withdrawn the advisory and has instead asked people to use "normal prudence" rather than the advise in the earlier press release. 

In a press release dated 27 May, the Union Electronics and Information Technology Ministry advised people to only share "masked Aadhaar" that has only last four digits of Aadhaar number rather than the complete number. It can be downloaded from the Aadhar website by selecting the "Do you want masked Aadhaar" option. 

The advisory further stated that only entities with User License from Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) can seek Aadhaar for identification and verification purposes.

"Unlicensed private entities like hotels or film halls are not permitted to collect or keep copies of Aadhaar card. It is an offence under the Aadhaar Act 2016," said the press release.

Now the Union government has backtracked, saying the advisory stands withdrawn "in view of the possibility of the misinterpretation of the press release".

In a press release on Sunday, the Union Electronics and IT Ministry said the earlier advisory was issued only in the context of an attempt to misuse a photoshopped Aadhaar card.

It added, "UIDAI-issued Aadhaar card holders are only advised to exercise normal prudence in using and sharing their UIDAI Aadhaar numbers. Aadhaar Identity Authentication ecosystem has provided adequate features for protecting and safeguarding the identity and privacy of the Aadhaar holder."

The Sunday's press release did not specifically comment on the illegality on the collection of Aadhaar cards by unlicensed private entities that the now-withdrawn advisory mentioned. It did not elaborate the "adequate features for protecting and safeguarding the identity and privacy of the Aadhaar holder" that it mentioend. 

Following the earlier advisory, experts on social media had highlighted that issues with Aadhaar had been flagged for a long time. People also highlighted that while the advisory said people should avoid public computers for downloading Aadhaar for security purposes, poor people are unlikely to have personal devices and they can only access Aadhaar via public computers.