Aadhaar can match any world standard in terms of data security

As UIDAI completes nearly an year since its inception, Rajesh Kumar Singh, Deputy Director General, UIDAI, R.O.- Delhi, joins Dataquest in an exclusive conversation discussing its success story and how it serves as an aiding hand for other digital schemes even when the Supreme Court quashes the necessity to make Aadhaar compulsory.

As UIDAI is on the cusp of completing one year, how has the journey been so far?

UIDAI is an authority whose purpose is to provide platform for digital governance. We do not implement anything but we are trying to provide digital identity to every citizen of this country. In the midst of all the Digital initiatives being taken by the government, we need to have a digital identity to avail any scheme which is being implemented and can be seen being covered under digital governance.

The prime objective of this authority is to provide digital identity to whosoever is a resident of this country. So far, roughly out of the figure of 125 crore residents of this country, we have been able to provide unique digital identity to 100 crore people. Constitutionally speaking, India is a welfare country, so we are trying to bring a lot of welfare schemes within the ambit of digital initiatives.

How is Aadhar reducing the burden of entailing various documents for verification to avail different schemes?

Taking the example of one of the important schemes under food security scheme where through PDS we are providing subsidized food to people belonging to BPL (below poverty level) and some portions of APL (above poverty level) as well. This scheme has been brought under the digital umbrella as you need not carry anything which acts as a proof of your identity or a proof of you being a beneficiary of the scheme.

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This scheme is being implemented in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan where if you are a beneficiary then you can straight away walk in. An information will be sent to your registered mobile number through an SMS that the quota of ration has arrived at a designated center and you can go without ration card. The only thing that will be required is your details which will be captured through a biometric reader and you can take away whatever you are entitled to.

Currently operational in three states but very soon other states will also be able to use this scheme. The outline has been finalized and ground work has been done in nation’s capital city as well. The only thing required is POS machines and it can be easily rolled out from there on.

Since UIDAI stores all the demographic as well as biometric information of citizens, how secure is an Aadhaar card?

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Aadhaar is very secure. The kind of information that we gather from a resident during the enrollment process is his demographic information, i.e., name and address, photograph and biometric signatures. These are stored completely securely as the importance of Aadhaar Card has now increased manifold with the constantly increasing enrollment of citizens.

Whenever your identity is being proved by authentication, we do not share this information. We rather authenticate if the Aadhaar number belongs to the person or not. Our data is completely secure by contemporary standards and I can say that it can match any world standard as far as data security is concerned.

Is there a provision to deactivate or delete the Aadhaar details of a person who is no more?

No, right now, such mechanism does not exist and we are not deleting any Aadhaar numbers from the system. As the possibility of us running short of numbers is not going to arrive, there has not been any provision introduced yet to invalidate the Aadhaar details of a person. An Aadhaar number is of twelve digits which makes it possible to produce these numbers thousand times more than what we currently have for the population. So we will not run short of this in the digital space.

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Right now there is no mechanism of automatic or manual deletion of Aahdhar number of a deceased person as whatever we do, we do that with the consent of that person. If a person dies then we cannot receive his consent to delete his Aadhaar. But if the time comes then we will take a call.
Aadhaar is evolving at a pace where the processes, methodology and technology are all evolving.

But in due course of time, we might adopt to introduce this option. If need comes, we will have to insert an exceptional clause in the Aadhaar act that in such case wherein the person who has to give consent is no longer alive, then based on certain documentation his Aadahar number will be deleted and it can be then available in the free space to be allotted to a new person.

Does it not hamper the security of Aadhaar number being misused for fraudulent purposes if the unique ID is not deleted after a person’s demise?

The authentication process of Aadhaar has been well thought and designed in such a manner that it eliminates any possibility of misusing the number or the details. In a hypothetical situation, imagine there are thousand beneficiaries of an old age pension scheme. In a course of time, out of those 1000, 100 of them have died. Now 900 genuine beneficiaries are left. From here on, my data becomes a little impure as it shows that there are 1000 beneficiaries, however, actually there are 900. But in no case it would happen that 1000 are getting pension as the people who have died cannot authenticate and thus not prove that they are present to get that service. Without authentication it is impossible.

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It is up to the departments how they treat certain data which is not acting for few years. Those Aadhaar numbers should be suspended unless somebody comes and claims that he is alive and is ready to authenticate, he was not available for so and so reason but now he has returned. This is actually happening in Rajasthan where if people are not claiming their ration for many months, then they are listed in a separate abeyance list. Whereas an active list is also being maintained where people are coming and claiming ration.

Aadhaar is not only digital identity but it is digital identity with digital authentication. A person who has given his biometrics to get an Aadhaar cannot have another number because their details have been recorded into the system which terminates the possibility of any breach or fraudulent activity.