UIDAI will issue 16-digit virtual ID to secure Aadhaar privacy

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Recent media reports also fuelled the general concern about the privacy and security of Aadhaar-related data.

So, here's a ready reckoner on these new features.

VID will be a temporary ID, which could be revoked.

While granting the temporary reprieve to Airtel in December, UIDAI had instructed the firm to use the e-KYC and authentication service only for the goal of re-verification and issuance of SIM cards and not for obtaining consent of the Aadhaar holder for opening bank accounts, wallets, DTH or any other goods or services. Residents are now required to share Aadhaar number to authenticate their identity to avail various services and the number is stored in the databases of banks, telcos and other private sector organisations.

A user can generate as many Virtual IDs as he or she wants.

Once the ID gets older which is canceled and a fresh one is automatically generated.

"This is a unique innovation to strengthen privacy and security of 119 crore Aadhaar holders".

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How is it safer than handing out one's Aadhaar number?

UIDAI yesterday introduced "Virtual ID" (VID) to safeguard Aadhaar cardholders' data.

While "global authentication user agencies" will get to access the entire KYC gamut and the Aadhaar number, smaller, local authentication agencies will be given the virtual IDs.

In fact, these are the checks that should have been run while the Aadhaar system was still a pilot project. "These are likely to be entities which require de-duplication for subsidy transfer, such as banks and government agencies".

When will VIDs be made available to the public? All authentication bodies have to fully migrate to the new system by June 1, and those failing to meet the deadline will face financial disincentives.

VID is a 16-digit, randomly-generated number which can be used for authentication instead of the original Aadhaar number. The limited KYC categories will be "local AUAs". It had last month allowed Airtel to use Aadhaar for re-verification of its mobile customers till January 10 with stiff riders, after the company returned ₹138 crore of LPG subsidy which had flowed into unsolicited Airtel Payments Bank accounts. The first kind of authentication agency would include banks and income tax authorities and would be granted complete access to an individual's details. The Aadhaar holder will also have the option to take up Aadhaar authentication through the existing method, by quoting the UID. With this access, anyone can grab the personal details of a person with just Aadhaar number. New security layer is like locking the stable after horses have bolted.

Why did UIDAI feel the need for this new two-tier security system? Soon, reports about a research paper on Aadhaar's vulnerability - published in October 2017 by an adjunct faculty at a think tank affiliated to the Reserve Bank of India - also started doing the rounds. The reporter paid Rs 500 via Paytm to an agent. The Punjab and Haryana High Court is scheduled to hear a PIL against UIDAI for this data leak today. While the Biometric data cannot be accessed, personal details can be used for marketing objective. The limited KYC system along with the Virtual ID might go a long way in allaying the nation's doubts.

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