After Tribune Expose, India Unveils ‘Virtual ID’ for Aadhaar Card Holders

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NEW DELHI — The UIDAI introduced on Wednesday a new concept of ‘Virtual ID’ which an Aadhaar-card holder can generate from its website and give for various purposes, including SIM verification, instead of sharing the actual 12-digit biometric ID, in a bid to address privacy concerns,

This will give the users the option of not sharing their Aadhaar number at the time of authentication.

The move came after the Tribune newspaper sting uncovered a security breach in the country’s vast biometric database, which contains the personal data of almost every citizen making over a million Indian citizens vulnerable to identity theft.

The Virtual ID, which would be a random 16-digit number, together with biometrics of the user would give any authorised agency like a mobile company, limited details like name, address and photograph, which are enough for any verification.

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Officials said a user can generate as many Virtual IDs as he or she wants. The older ID gets automatically cancelled once a fresh one is generated, reports PTI.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has also introduced the concept of ‘limited KYC’ under which it will only provide need-based or limited details of a user to an authorised agency that is providing a particular service, say, a telco.

The Virtual ID will be a temporary and revocable 16 digit random number mapped to a person’s Aadhaar number and the Aadhaar-issuing body will start accepting it from March 1, 2018.

From June 1, 2018 it will be compulsory for all agencies that undertake authentication to accept the Virtual ID from their users.

Agencies that do not migrate to the new system to offer this additional option to their users by the stipulated deadline will face financial disincentives, according to the report.

“Aadhaar number holder can use Virtual ID in lieu of Aadhaar number whenever authentication or KYC services are performed. Authentication may be performed using the Virtual ID in a manner similar to using Aadhaar number,” a UIDAI circular said.

The move aims to strengthen the privacy and security of Aadhaar data and comes amid heightened concerns around the collection and storage of personal and demographic data of individuals.

Users can go to the UIDAI website to generate their virtual ID which will be valid for a defined period of time, or till the user decides to change it.

They can give this Virtual ID to service agencies along with the fingerprint at the time of authentication. Since the system generated Virtual ID will be mapped to an individual’s Aadhaar number itself at the back end, it will do away with the need for the user to share Aadhaar number for authentication.

It will also reduce the collection of Aadhaar numbers by various agencies.

After the security breach in Aadhar system exposed by the Tribune reporter, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), on January 5, filed an FIR against the reporter.

The decision of Aadhar regulatory body to register FIR against the reporter has angered the media fraternity. Veteran journalists and media people demanded the UIDAI to immediately withdraw the FIR against Rachna Khaira of The Tribune English daily.

(Web report with inputs from PTI)

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