Aadhaar-based authentications and enrolments or new additions shrunk to a year low in November. From a high of 7.4 million enrolments in January this year, the figure slowed to 866,000, as per UIDAI records. The number of authentications using the unique identity number slowed to 824 million last month, from a high of 1.12 billion in March. This fall in monthly additions and authentications was to be expected following the Supreme Court’s (SC’s) September 26 order that ruled against mandatory linkage of Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile numbers. Also, with 1.22 billion people already assigned an Aadhaar as per UIDAI’s online database and only 130 million more left that are not covered by the scheme, a fall in enrolments was inevitable.
What holds a lot more promise—and therefore is key to the Aadhaar story—is the rate of Aadhaar-based authentications that don’t rely on the UID number or biometrics, datasets that are at the centre of the Aadhaar-privacy controversy. Earlier, anyone wishing to use Aadhaar for authentication had to disclose their Aadhaar number or allow their biometrics to be scanned and processed. Later, however, the ‘virtual’ Aadhaar system was created—any user could go to the Aadhaar website and generate a virtual ID at any point—and UID tokens could be generated which enabled the authentication of transactions from the UIDAI database without the use of use of Aadhaar. In addition, UIDAI has come out with Aadhaar Quick Response (QR) codes that can be downloaded from the internet and printed, enabling the authentication sans Aadhaar disclosure/biometric data collection. To look at Aadhaar’s success as a tool of authentication therefore, it is perhaps time to look at the data relating to virtual ID and QR verification. Aadhaar verification has helped weed out duplicate recipients of government welfare schemes, helped save the taxpayers’ money, and has reduced transaction costs for telcos and banks. The advantages it offers should not be wasted, especially with QR codes and virtual ID addressing privacy concerns effectively.