Nandan Nilekani, former chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India, on Wednesday said there was an “orchestrated campaign” to malign the Centre’s Aadhaar system, PTI reported.
Nilekani was reacting to The Tribune’s report from January 4, which alleged that the Aadhaar details of millions of users was easily accessible.
“There is 100% an orchestrated campaign to see how Aadhaar gets maligned, yes absolutely,” Nilekani told ET Now. He added that the new two-step security process the Aadhaar authority is planning to introduce “eliminates all the arguments” against the biometric identification system.
“The issue has been blown out of proportion as Aadhaar has built far too many security layers,” said Nilekani, the non-executive chairperson of Infosys. “I think everybody has to accept that Aadhaar is here to stay.”
The Tribune report raised questions about how secure it is to share Aadhaar details with different agencies. 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 think tank has distanced itself from the paper.
In response to these reports, the UIDAI on Wednesday said it was introducing a two-step verification process to ensure that users will never have to share their actual Aadhaar numbers, reducing chances of its misuse and increasing privacy.
Under the new system, which will come into effect by June 1, all Aadhaar transactions will take place with a virtual ID – a 16-digit, randomly-generated number that will be used for authentication to avail services, instead of the actual Aadhaar number. This virtual ID is temporary and can only be generated by the user. It will not reveal any of the user’s Aadhaar details.
The second safety net is a “limited KYC” mechanism that will regulate how different agencies, such as banks or telecom companies, store Aadhaar details in their databases.
These changes to the Aadhaar system come just days before a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court is scheduled to start a final hearing on the validity of Aadhaar. The Supreme Court is hearing a clutch of petitions that challenge Aadhaar based on privacy concerns. In a landmark ruling in August, the Supreme Court had declared privacy a fundamental right protected under Article 21 of the Constitution.