Hammered government offers Virtual ID firewall to protect your Aadhaar

Infosys founder Nandan Nilekani at the Infosys Prize 2017 event in Bengaluru

Admitting that the "collection and storage of Aadhaar numbers by various entities has heightened privacy concerns", the UIDAI circular said Authentication User Agencies (AUAs) providing Aadhaar services have to be ready to implement the protocol from March 1, 2018. It means that a 16-digit temporary number will be used instead of the Aadhaar number. Virtual IDs will be issued from March 1, 2018, and service providers will start accepting it from June 1, 2018.

The Indian Government has announced significant changes to the way the national ID, Aadhaar, is now being used for authentication. "I am clueless about how it is going to help or how it will work in rural areas", he said.

Virtual ID, the 16 digit randomly generated number that people can use as a replacement for their Aadhaar number is added security and does not indicate a loophole in earlier security architecture. Since the system generated Virtual ID will be mapped to an individual's Aadhaar number itself at the back end, it will do away with the need for the user to share Aadhaar number for authentication.

Interestingly, UIDAI authorized agencies such as Authentication User Agency (AUA) and KUA (KYC User Agency) will not be able to generate Virtual IDs for others, and only the user would be able to do so, after authorizing their detail. Though the Aadhaar matter comes up for hearing before a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court on January 17, the two pieces of news, related in a way, tell us what's the stance of the UIDAI is going to be despite mounting evidence of Aadhaar's shaky, leaky structure.

Bharti Airtel did not comment on UIDAI's order pertaining to its payments banking arm, but one of the persons cited above said "status quo had been maintained" in so far as Airtel Payment Bank goes. You can also generate/replace VIDs on the Aadhaar mobile app and at enrolment centres.

The security layer by UIDAI came in after a report in The Tribune alleged that whole of the Aadhaar data can be accessed through WhatsApp by paying a fee. So most people's Aadhaar numbers are probably available in the open.

Congress leader P Chidambaram took to Twitter on Thursday to offer his take on the new security features to safeguard your Aadhaar number, using a classic analogy to drive the point home.

According to a report, the UIDAI claims that they are now busy working on a "Virtual ID" for months, and the declared was made at a time privacy concerns around Aadhaar peaked.

"And at that time, it was felt that let us first give Aadhaar number, let us see how it plays out and then, at an appropriate time, this will be introduced", he said. With this access, anyone can grab the personal details of a person with just Aadhaar number.

"The Aadhaar-issuing body, however, has said that it will reserve the right to determine what demographic fields need to be shared with the Local AUAs in addition to the UID Token depending upon its need". That remains suspended till final enquiry and audit (here and here).

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