UIDAI Introduces Virtual ID System to Improve Aadhaar Privacy

The flaw resides in the USSD service that UIDAI publicly shared in December last year

The flaw resides in the USSD service that UIDAI publicly shared in December last year

Once the new system kicks in, people will be able to generate their Virtual ID from the website run by the Unique Identification Authority or UIDAI, Aadhaar enrolment centre and the Aadhaar application on their mobile phone. By 1 June, all these agencies have to fully migrate to the new system or risk losing their registration and fines.

The basic concerns around Aadhaar were raised around the right to privacy and security of data. A 16-digit, arbitrarily produced number, will be used for verification rather than Aadhaar number.

The latest move comes at a time when the UIDAI is facing criticism for registering an FIR against a reporter of The Tribune for a report claiming that unknown agents had provided access to Aadhaar's demographic database for Rs 500.

In this context, the Unique Identification Authority, or UIDAI, chose to restrict most private firms from retaining Aadhaar numbers of their customers or others. The Virtual ID will be accepted from March 1, 2018. This virtual ID is temporary and can only be generated by the user.

With the introduction of "Virtual ID", a fungible number mapped to the Aadhaar number, holders will be given an option to not share their 12-digit biometric code, stated UIDAI in a notification. "Authentication may be performed using the Virtual ID in a manner similar to using Aadhaar number", a UIDAI circular said. The older ID gets automatically canceled once a fresh one is generated.

The Virtual ID will be a 16-digit random number. UIDAI will only provide need-based or limited details of a user to an authorised agency that is providing a particular service like telecom operators. Agencies will identify users with tokens.

While the VID allows Aadhar holders to avoid sharing the number, the UIDAI has taken an additional step to ensure that the storage of Aadhaar numbers within various databases is regulated. They may even face discontinuation of authentications services.

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