UIDAI asks ecommerce companies to stop enabling Aadhaar data collection

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has asked ecommerce companies like eBay, Flipkart, Amazon etc., to not allow merchants on their platforms to collect Aadhaar information from the general public for printing Aadhaar cards. Doing so or aiding people doing it, will invite a criminal offence, punishable with imprisonment under The Aadhaar Act.

The agency warns users to not fall prey to scams that charge for printing Aadhaar on a plastic card in the name of a smart card. It mentions that users are being charged anywhere between Rs 50 to Rs 200 for printing these cards which is illegal. Users wanting to print the card on plastic should go to Common Service Centres or Aadhaar Permanent Enrolment Centres and pay Rs 30 for getting it done.

The agency mentions that the cutaway portion or downloaded version of Aadhaar is perfectly valid. Users can get an online copy of their Aadhaar for free fromhttps://eaadhaar.uidai.gov.in/ which will be valid even if printed on a black and white form. There is simply no requirement to print the document on a plastic card, or to get it laminated.

This essentially underlines one of the privacy risks of Aadhaar. We wonder how many users shared Aadhaar details with merchants, undermining their security. Here is a thread on Quora highlighting the potential risks an exposed Aadhaar number poses.

Aadhaar Bill: Last month the Aadhaar Bill 2016 was passed in the Lok Sabha. The bill was passed in the lower house of Parliament and was introduced as a money bill which bypassed voting in the Rajya Sabha. A money bill exclusively contains provisions for imposition and abolition of taxes, for appropriation of moneys out of a consolidated fund. Earlier in the budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley said that the government will enact a law where Aadhaar will be given statutory backing.

At the time, we had mentioned that the Aadhaar bill in its current form has several privacy issues. The bill would make it mandatory to have Aadhaar for the people to get government benefits. However, personal details can be shared in the “interest of national security”, though the government does not define what is national security. More on the privacy concerns here.

Other developments:

– In February, the TRAI proposed that the Department of Telecom (DoT) allow e-KYC (know your customer) of Aadhaar as one of the valid documents to get a new mobile connection.

– The same month, Microsoft said that it is working on a pilot to integrate its VoIP solution Skype with the Aadhaar database, to see if Aadhaar can be used as an identification system for video calls with government organisations and institutions among others.

– In September 2015, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is responsible for issuing Aadhar cards in the country, was shifted to ministry of IT and communications from the country’s top policy commission, NITI Aayog.

– As of March 2015, the NPCI linked 15 crore bank accounts opened under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana with Aadhar numbers. The linking of an Aadhar number with a bank account makes the job of identification easier for the government in order to make welfare payments and subsidies directly into the bank accounts.