Two sides of the latest Aadhaar controversy from this week

How secure is our Aadhaar data actually and which part of the data specifically?

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“With great power comes great responsibility.”

At last, the word ‘Aadhaar’ has become a household name, and for many reasons: Be it government of this country making it mandatory for its citizens to link Aadhaar card to their PAN card, bank account, mobile number or for other reasons. You can hate Aadhaar if you want, but you just can’t or perhaps shouldn’t ignore it. Because it has now become the most important thing Indians must have these days.

In an age where technology, digitization and growing population are at its peak, the human existence is left to the mercy of a paper. Sadly, that’s a new benchmark of success in your career, because it seems you can no longer apply for a job without an Aadhaar card irrespective of your skills and achievements.

Aadhaar card is also a validation of being alive; some even say that you are not allowed to die if you don’t have Aadhaar! May be that’s an exaggeration. But there’s a lot of ambiguity in the air lately when it comes to anything even remotely related to Aadhaar. It is a very sensitive topic and this is what drove the sensitivity meter nuts this week.

“Rs 500, 10 minutes, and you have access to billion Aadhaar details”

A recent investigation by an English-daily, The Tribune, once again opened the debate about Aadhaar card and its security. The story revealed how easy it was to get access to billions of Aadhaar details in 10 minutes. And at what cost? Rs 500 only! The alleged service was being offered on WhatsApp, and the money was supposed to be paid over Paytm.

Upon paying Rs 500 over Paytm, a person running the anonymous WhatsApp group created a login ID and password for The Tribune correspondent. As a result, the correspondent could enter any Aadhaar number in the portal and get instant access to anyone’s Aadhaar card details like name, address, postal code (PIN), photo, phone number and email.

Upon paying Rs 300 more could also get access to a software needed for printing Aadhaar cards. It’s an alleged yet classic tale of misusing not only people’s trust but also commonly used apps, services and cashless economy inspired by the government’s Digital India vision. Read the complete story here.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Shortly after The Tribune’s story made the headlines and took social media by storm, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) released a statement declining Aadhaar data breach by claiming that it (the story) was a case of misreporting. The statement also surfaced on official twitter handle of the ruling party of this country, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Two interesting things to note in the latest Aadhaar controversy are:
1. The Tribune is not claiming that they got access to the biometric data of Aadhaar card holders.
2. The UIDAI in their statement is condemning the report and strongly denying anybody getting access to the biometric data but not clearly denying access to other user information.

Two days into the debate about security of Aadhaar details, the whole anger appears to have calmed down but there is still no clarity on how secured the data is and which part of the data specifically. Aadhaar data breach can lead to very serious problems in India pertaining to privacy risk and identity thefts. About time there is absolute clarity from the concerned authorities about how secure our data actually is.