In November 2015, even before the Aadhaar Act was passed in the parliament, Swabhimaan Distributions Private Ltd, a company based in Gurgaon, launched an Aadhaar based service called TrustID. It was hailed as the first mobile app to help people verify the identity of an individual using his/her Aadhaar ID in less than 1 minute.
The TrustID website says the service aims to effectively utilise the power of Aadhaar for identity verification of an individual. Basically, it offers instant Aadhaar ID authentication or Aadhaar ID background check for any contact. It can be used to check anyone’s Aadhaar number in various situations ranging fro m hiring a domestic help like maid, cook, driver, security guard etc or even while choosing a tenant.
BetterPlace Safety Solutions, another firm based in Bengaluru, promises continuous and reliable safety solutions. The employment section in the site says, “At Better Place we leverage multiple data sources, including Aadhaar. BetterPlace has in place and continues to create a unique profile of every citizen with accurate and comprehensive personal, professional and social information.”
TrustID and BetterPlace are just two private firms among many that include Aadhaar authentication among their services. Companies such as Khosla Labs, Janalakshmi Financial Services Ltd, WeP Solutions based in Bengaluru are featured in the list of Aadhaar Authentication User Agencies (AUA) registered with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
Here is how the Aadhaar authentication system works:
- A government department, financial institution or any organisation may want to authenticate the identity of a person – an Aadhaar holder, for covering him/her under welfare scheme, or to extend loans, or for recruitment purpose.
- To get this authentication done, either they can become an AUA or a sub-AUA. To get the status of AUA, they have to register with the UIDAI.
- To become a sub-AUA, they have to sign up with AUA.
- First, an authentication request is made to the AUA. AUA forwards the request to the Authentication Service Agency (ASA), which plays an intermediary role.
- ASA forwards the request to the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of the UIDAI, which stores the Aadhaar Data. On verification of the demographic or biometric information, CIDR will respond in ‘yes’ or ‘no’ format. The response is sent to the ASA, which will then convey it to the customer through the AUA.
The number of registered Authentication Service Agencies (ASA) in INdia is 24 and Authentication User Agencies is 246 as on June 30th, 2016, says Ajai Chandra, Assistant Director General of the Authentication and Application Division of UIDAI. ASAs include government agencies as well as private agencies such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Corporate Park, Idea Cellular, Master Card.
A visit to the UIDAI site will show you the complete list of agencies that are authentication users and authentication service providers. As far as Karnataka is concerned, the Centre for e-governance is the only ASA.
Apart from the government agencies, which include nationalised banks from Bengaluru, the private agencies that are registered with UIDAI to seek identity authentication as AUAs, are as follows:
- e-Mudhra Consumer Services Ltd
- Janalakshmi Financial Services Ltd
- Khosla Labs
- Metlife India Insurance Company Ltd
- Transaction Analysts India Pvt Ltd
- Trade Jini Financial Services Pvt Ltd
- Ujjivan Financial Services
- WeP Solutions
How are companies using Aadhaar?
While government agencies are using Aadhaar number for verifying the identity of an individual in order to effectively implement welfare schemes, how and why are private firms using the data?
Take the case of Khosla Labs. This start-up is not only an Authentication User Agency registered with UIDAI, but also the developer of Aadhaar Bridge. Aadhaar Bridge is a platform, which helps interested individuals and organisations to build apps with Aadhaar integration.
Srikanth Nadhamuni, CEO of Khosla Labs, who was also the Head of Technologies at UIDAI, says that if companies want Aadhaar authentication for their services, they need not necessarily get the licences and set up back end infrastructure to get the authentication. “We have written a set of Application Programme Interface (APIs) which make it easy for the companies to integrate with Aadhaar. Then we sign them up as sub-AUAs through a contract agreement authenticated by the Central government,” he says.
So, if a company wants to do authentication through their own app, they can use the API developed by Khosla Labs and build the integration. This apart, Khosla Labs also provides authentication service to those seeking the Aadhaar-based authentication. The authentication process is completed in a matter of a few hours, if the request is made in a proper format.
“Right now things are getting streamlined and we have 30-40 customers mainly from banking, micro-finances, recruitment agencies, bike rental start-ups. A majority among the customers are digital money lending companies, because it was harder to authenticate the poor so far, as they didn’t have proper documents. Now there is a growing interest in using Aadhaar for authentication,” he points out. BetterPlace mentioned earlier is also an AUA. This start-up provides an app-based service to those who wish to do an identity check before hiring an individual.
BetterPlace co-founder and CEO Pravin Agarwala says, “we provide an application where the individual or organisation who wants to authenticate can enter the information and Aadhaar provides the API. It can then be integrated and sent to Aadhaar data repository for confirmation.” Agarwala says Aadhaar authentication comes in handy to avoid duplication while hiring an employee or renting out the space. “It is a system where authentication can be done with 100 per cent surety, unlike authentication using other ID proofs. For example, I hire a person for some job. He may end up stealing things and vacate the place. The thief then may get a job in some other place by showing a different ID proof. But that can not happen with Aadhaar authentication. To make it more comprehensive, we have added a “feedback” feature in our app. The one who hires a person can give feedback about him in the app, based on which credentials can be built over a period of time,” he says.
BetterPlace, at present has limited itself to B2B service and is largely working with e-commerce companies, security firms and hospitals, who seek authentication of an individual for lending loans or hiring purpose.
But even as private agencies are actively involved in the Aadhaar authentication system, this has raised several concerns. What are the fears raised by experts? Why is there an opposition against private agencies using Aadhaar based authentication? That is what we shall look at in the next part of the story.