Centre withdraws two-day-old advisory after Aadhaar panic
The Centre on Sunday withdrew a two-day-old advisory that had cautioned people against sharing photocopies of their Aadhaar card with any organisation to pre-empt “misuse”, after the warning caused widespread panic on social media.
The government said it was withdrawing the advisory — published in the context of an attempt to misuse an edited Aadhaar card — as it could lead to “misinterpretation”.
The new statement said the Aadhaar ecosystem had adequate features to protect the identity and privacy of users, and that users were being advised only to exercise “normal prudence”.
On Friday, a media release from the Bangalore regional office of the Unique Identification Authority of India, custodian of the Aadhaar, had asked people not to share photocopies of one’s Aadhaar with any organisation because it could be misused.
However, a masked Aadhaar that displayed only the last 4 digits of the biometric ID could be used, it had added.
“Unlicensed private entities like hotels or film halls are not permitted to collect or keep copies of Aadhaar card,” the release read.
This triggered alarm on social media, with screen grabs of the release and news articles going viral and the issue featuring among the top 10 trending topics in India on Twitter on Sunday.
“I might have stayed in almost a 100 hotels who kept a copy of my Aadhar! Now this,” said Twitter user @_NairFYI.
Sunday’s withdrawal statement, issued by the ministry of electronics and IT, said: “However, in view of the possibility of the misinterpretation of the Press Release, the same stands withdrawn with immediate effect.”
The Unique Identification Authority of India says among its frequently asked questions, “It is near impossible to impersonate you if you use Aadhaar to prove your identity.”
It adds: “People have been freely giving other identity documents. But did they stop using these documents for the fear that somebody would use them to impersonate? No!”
The Aadhaar card, which has a unique number tied to an individual’s fingerprints, face and eye scan, aims to block theft and leakage in the country’s welfare schemes. But critics fear it could spawn a surveillance state.
The Supreme Court had in 2018 upheld the validity of the Aadhaar but flagged privacy concerns and reined in a government push to make it mandatory for everything from banking to telecom services.