1. Why UIDAI action against Airtel will serve as a lesson to those misusing Aadhaar system

Why UIDAI action against Airtel will serve as a lesson to those misusing Aadhaar system

A fine would have been less effective since, with the e-KYC licence suspended, albeit temporarily, Bharti Airtel must now follow the more tedious and time-consuming manual KYC process for enlisting mobile phone subscribers.

By: | Published: December 21, 2017 5:12 AM
Bharti Airtel has been deservedly rapped on the knuckles by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) which has disallowed it and Airtel Payments Bank from verifying the bona fides of customers via eKYC using Aadhaar.

Bharti Airtel has been deservedly rapped on the knuckles by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) which has disallowed it and Airtel Payments Bank from verifying the bona fides of customers via eKYC using Aadhaar. This is a strong signal to all players from the UIDAI, and shows it means business. The penalty might seem harsh, but is deserved because companies cannot be playing around with customers and sensitive data. Already, there is much concern about Aadhaar data ‘leaks’—in several cases, government departments/ministries have put out data on various benefits being transferred to citizens with information on their Aadhaar number, names and addresses, bank account numbers, and so on.

A fine would have been less effective since, with the e-KYC licence suspended, albeit temporarily, Bharti Airtel must now follow the more tedious and time-consuming manual KYC process for enlisting mobile phone subscribers. In fact, since customer acquisition costs do go up when a KYC needs to be completed physically, eKYC is clearly the best solution, but it cannot work if the facility is abused by companies. Given both Aadhaar and the digital ecosystem in India are relatively new, UIDAI must watch players closely and be ready to act with strong penal measures whenever there is a breach. In this case, when consumers came to link their mobile numbers to their Aadhaar—as was warranted by the law—Bharti Airtel used this verification process to open payments banks accounts for its subscribers without their ‘informed consent’. This is unacceptable both from the point of view of the system as also the individual.

Airtel’s mobile app allegedly came with a box that was pre-checked which meant that unless the user took care to uncheck it, his consent to upgrading or creating an Airtel Payment Bank wallet using the mobile KYC, was assumed. Going by reports, at least 2-3 million new banks accounts were created in this fashion. Also, subscribers were inconvenienced because their LPG subsidies were deposited into the Airtel Bank accounts rather their regular accounts. Following the episode, the government has amended the rules for receiving subsidies—these will no longer be automatically deposited in the latest Aadhaar-linked bank account.

Consumers are wary of digital banking given instances of accounts being hacked, and enough fear has been created about the breach of privacy using Aadhaar. If there are more incidents like the Airtel one, people will become even more reluctant to use digital banking/payment facilities. The fear of sensitive personal information being leaked is justified. A committee has been tasked with writing a report on data privacy , and unless it—along with UIDAI—ensures that custodians of data are able to keep it confidential, the use of both digital payments and Aadhaar might be limited.

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  1. R
    Reader
    Dec 21, 2017 at 1:57 pm
    UK’s Biometric ID Database was dismantled. Why the United Kingdom's biometrics-linked National Identi-ty Card project to create a centralized register of sensitive information about residents similar to Aadhaar was scrapped in 2010?? The reasons were the massive threat posed to the privacy of people, the possibility of a surveillance state, the dangers of maintaining such a huge centralized repository of personal information and the purposes it could be used for, the dangers of such a centralized database being hacked, and the unreliability of such large-scale biometric verification processes. The Aadhaar program was designed in 2009 by mainly considering the 'Identi-ty Cards Act 2006' of UK, but the UK stopped that project in 2010, whereas India continued with the biometrics-based program. We must think why the United Kingdom abandoned their project and destroyed the data collected. (Google: 'Identi-ty Cards Act 2006' and 'Identi-ty Documents Act 2010' )
    Reply
    1. R
      Reader
      Dec 21, 2017 at 1:56 pm
      A centralized and inter-linked biometric database like Aadhaar will lead to profiling and self-censorship. Personal data gathered under the Aadhaar program is prone to misuse and surveillance. Aadhaar project has created a vulnerability to identi-ty fraud, even identi-ty theft. Easy harvesting of biometrics traits and publicly-available Aadhaar numbers increase the risk of impersonation, especially online and banking fraud. BIOMETRICS CAN BE FAKED. High-resolution cameras can capture your fingerprints and iris information from a distance. Every eye hospital will have iris images of its patients. So another person can clone your fingerprints and iris images without your knowledge, and the same can be used for authentication. If the Aadhaar scheme is NOT STOPPED by the Supreme Court, the biometric features of Indians will soon be cloned, misused, and even traded. If the biometric details of a person are COMPROMISED ONCE, then even a new Aadhaar card will not help that person.
      Reply
      1. R
        Reader
        Dec 21, 2017 at 1:56 pm
        The US Social Security Number (SSN) card has NO BIOMETRIC DETAILS, no photograph, no physical description and no birth date. All it does is confirm that a particular number has been issued to a particular name. Instead, a driving license or state ID card is used as an identification for adults. The US government DOES NOT collect the biometric details of its own citizens for the purpose of issuing Social Security Number. The US collects the fingerprints of only those citizens who are involved in any criminal activity (it has nothing to do with SSN), and the citizens of other countries who come to the US.
        Reply
        1. #
          #AADHAARFAIL
          Dec 21, 2017 at 9:46 am
          When your bank account gets looted via aadhaar pay, you will call 1947, wait for 3 hours to get connected, the call center folks will simply ask you to visit aadhaar enrollment center, waiting list being 3 months, you will bribe 1000 INR and get an appointment with aadhaar enrollment center to resolve aadhaar misuse, they will ask you to email help at uidai dot gov dot in, you will send 10 emails in 10 days and then get a generic mail, asking you to specify all your details including preferred condom b , etc, you will respond with all details, you will follow up for 3 more days, then you will get a generic FINAL response, "Please lock your bio-metrics in UIDAI , Jai Hind!", after that even if you send 100 emails you will NOT get any response. You lock your bio-metrics, the criminal go to an aadhaar enrollment center and unlock your bio-metrics using stolen fingerprint and keep on looting your hard earned money.
          Reply

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