Aadhaar Database Safe, Verification Process Was Misused, Say Authorities

NEW DELHI: As the Centre expands the list of government services that would require beneficiaries to have an Aadhaar number, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on Tuesday insisted that its biometrics database of a billion people was safe.

The reassurance comes against the backdrop of the authority suspending Aadhaar authentication services of Axis Bank after a business correspondent sent a large number of authentication requests to the UIDAI; in each case the fingerprint was exactly the case.

While UIDAI says the authority is yet to get the probe report, an official said this indicated at the possibility that someone was sending a stored version of the fingerprint. The unusual activity was flagged by the UIDAI’s security system and a complaint registered with Delhi Police’s cyber cell for breach of its regulations, a UIDAI official said.

Apart from Axis bank, the complaint had also named its business correspondent Suvidhaa Infoserve and e-sign provider eMudhra, which has denied that it saved any biometrics.

The Aadhaar law does not allow anyone to store biometrics taken by anyone for authentication by UIDAI, or send a stored version.

A top UIDAI official said this was an instance of misuse of Aadhaar authentication by a private party, not a breach. “There hasn’t been a breach of any biometric data… which is not shared anybody under any circumstances,” the official said, pointing that was barred from sharing the data under the law enacted parliament.

The 2016 law also empowered the government to list government services that can be provided to people if they have an Aadhaar number, or have enrolled for one. Over the last few weeks, the government has mandated that people who produce the number for getting subsidised rations, scholarship for students or benefits at Anganwadi, the government-funded child-care and mother-care programme.

Since September 2010 when the first Aadhaar number was issued to a woman in Maharashtra’s Nandurbag district, UIDAI has issued the 12-digit identity number – that is key to the government’s thrust on cashless transactions and direct benefit transfer programmes – to 112 crore people. The authority has so far authenticated 490 crore transactions, an average of four transactions for every number issued.

[Copyright by Sunil Prabhu,

Edited by Aloke Tikku ]