Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Chairperson Ram Sewak Sharma on Tuesday said that by sharing his Aadhaar number on Twitter last week, he did not mean that others should do the same.
On Saturday, Sharma had shared his Aadhaar number, challenging people to show how their knowledge of his unique identity number could be used to harm him. However, it led to severe backlash on Twitter, and several users claimed that they were able to obtain Sharma’s personal details, such as his Permanent Account Number and mobile number, using the Aadhaar number.
In a column he wrote in The Indian Express, Sharma said he decided to put his Aadhaar number out to prove that no harm would be caused if it was leaked. “While I did reveal my own number, I am not suggesting for a moment that any of you could also publicly share your Aadhaar number,” he wrote. “Far from it. Replicating the same challenge doesn’t prove anything more.”
Sharma said there was a sustained campaign under way against Aadhaar and the “modus operandi” of it was “scaremongering”. “Slowly, deliberately, Aadhaar is being shown as a dangerous artefact because it could compromise security,” he wrote. “Hashtags like #destroyAadhaar have been created.”
The TRAI chief said the unique identification system is “empowering millions of people” who obtain subsidies in their bank accounts. People who have tried to fool the system for tax evasion, benami properties and other such activities have been affected since Aadhaar has been adopted, he said.
“By creating a scare, their objective is to discourage people from sharing the Aadhaar number, thus allowing the vested interests to continue to play as before,” Sharma said. “Aadhaar provides only authentication services and in doing so, the UIDAI does not know where it is linked to, in a federated data model. Unfortunately, the critics of Aadhaar attribute the vulnerabilities of those domains to which Aadhaar provides service as vulnerabilities of the Aadhaar system itself, as in the EPFO case.”
In May, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation shut down its Aadhaar seeding website temporarily after confidential data of formal sector employees enrolled under the provident fund scheme was leaked.
Sharma said users interact with multiple systems, some of which may make their data vulnerable. He said since users do not use strong passwords, it compromises their security. “But all such weakness in the ecosystem cannot be laid at the door of the UIDAI. My point is simple: Aadhaar does not contribute to increasing any of your other digital vulnerabilities,” he added.
Sharma said the “so-called hackers” had found information that could have been found with Google searches “without the benefit of knowing the Aadhaar number”. The hackers had also tried to subscribe his email accounts to a number of services, he said. But they failed, he said, since the services sent him one-time passwords in order to authenticate his ID.
“Thus far, I have not lost the challenge and I’m very confident that I will not,” Sharma wrote. “Yes, some distress may be caused to me by the concerted effort of so many people. However, for that Aadhaar is not to blame.”