If you are on social media, then you might have seen it blow up with an uproar this weekend.
The cause of the uproar seems, at first glance, a pretty simple one – an advisory issued by the government cautioning people not to share photocopies of their Aadhar cards. However, this seemingly innocuous advisory turned a sleepy weekend into a storm on social media.
The advisory of May 27 cautioned users against sharing photocopies of their Aadhar cards with any organizations since they could be misused. They could, however, use a masked Aadhar which displayed only the last four digits of their Aadhar number. It also advised against using a public computer to download e-versions of the Aadhar card.
The Bengaluru Regional office of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is responsible for overseeing Aadhaar, warned them that “unlicensed private entities” such as hotels and theatre halls were “not permitted to collect or keep copies of Aadhaar.” Only organizations that have obtained a User License from the UIDAI are permitted to do so to establish a person’s identity.
Unsurprisingly, social media blew up after the advisory was issued. “I might have stayed in almost 100 hotels who kept a copy of my Aadhaar! Now this,” an individual tweeted. Abhishek Baxi, a freelance tech journalist, tweeted an image of the advisory, stating that the UIDAI had “now woken up after everyone’s distributed photocopies of Aadhaar all over.”
Following the major backlash from the citizens, the advisory was withdrawn, claiming that it could be “misinterpreted.” The Ministry of Electronics and IT on Sunday said that the warning was given in the context of spreading awareness about the potential “misuse” of a “photoshopped Aadhaar card.”
“UIDAI issued Aadhaar cardholders are only advised to exercise normal prudence in using and sharing their UIDAI Aadhaar numbers. Aadhaar Identity Authentication ecosystem has provided adequate features for protecting and safeguarding the identity and privacy of the Aadhaar holder,” it added.
The 13-year-old Aadhar is perhaps the most widespread ID system in the country, especially since it has uses in almost every daily life service, and is one of the most common methods used to establish a person’s identity. The concern that it could be misused and that entities like hotels had no authority to keep or collect photocopies of the Aadhar card is understandably disturbing.
Not that it can be used to establish the identity of a person – the UIDAI has made it pretty clear that someone cannot impersonate you if you use Aadhar to prove your identity.