Former UIDAI director general, RS Sharma, has denied and dispelled rumours about any Aadhaar data breach.
In a report, written by him for the Economic Times, RS Sharma has rubbished rumours of anyone having Aadhaar details of all Indian residents.
This comes in the backdrop of a recent report by The Tribune where Aadhaar details of people were available at Rs 500 via WhatsApp.
According to Sharma, "Aadhaar number is not a secret number. In fact, it is just a unique random number associated with a person." And he goes on to say that pieces of information associated with an Aadhaar number, such as name, gender, date of birth and communication address aren't secret information either.
"If a policeman on the road suddenly gets hold of you and asks your name and address, you are mandated, under the law, to truthfully disclose that. No harm can be caused to a person if somebody has a copy of his Aadhaar letter," says Sharma.
Sharma reiterated the statement we have been hearing from UIDAI for a while now, that there has been no breach of biometric details.
According to Sharma, the reason for creating e-Aadhaar was that in a lot of rural areas the Aadhaar letter wasn't delivered or had been lost or not generated for some reason. In such a situation if nothing was done to inform the resident then he or she would have gone to enrol for Aadhaar again, and the enrolment would be rejected since the Aadhaar had already been issued.
Speaking of situation where people share their Aadhaar credentials with other people, he said that the possible misuse of information by sharing these details is not a breach of data rather a "breach of trust".
He also pointed out, that even though someone has access to personal information, in order to generate an e-Aadhaar, the person would require an Aadhaar number as well which he thinks is a nearly impossible task. "Guessing is also difficult as every 12-digit number is not an Aadhaar number. The chance of guessing correctly is only 1%. There are 10,000 crore 11-digit numbers—the 12th digit being a 'check number'," said Sharma.
According to Sharma, Aadhaar is being discredited by may people who have interests in benami properties and who are evading tax. He concluded by saying that the next episode in this sustained campaign to malign Aadhaar will play out in the not-so-distant future.
However, UIDAI has now decided that it would release an Aadhaar Virtual Identity which would shield not only the biometric database but the Aadhaar number as well.
The Virtual ID is a 16-digit random number which can be generated by an Aadhaar card holder on the UIDAI website. Its aim is to mask the real 12-digit Aadhaar number when something is being authenticated via Aadhaar. By this means, your actual Aadhaar number is secure and there will be no need to share it with everyone.
The Virtual ID will come into effect on 1 March and is meant to be a temporary and revocable 16-digit random number which is mapped to a person's real Aadhaar number. From 1 June onwards, it will be mandatory for all agencies that authenticate users by their Aadhaar numbers to have the Virtual ID systems in place. The Virtual ID system is optional for users, but agencies will have to provide both options for authentication from 1 June onwards.