Aadhaar number is a 12-digit random number issued by the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) to the residents of India after satisfying the verification process laid down by the Authority.
The Aadhaar Act, 2016 defines residency as, “An individual who has resided in India for a period or periods amounting in all to 182 days or more in the 12 months immediately preceding the date of application for enrolment.”
Any individual, irrespective of age and gender, who is a resident of India, may voluntarily enrol to obtain Aadhaar number.
Person willing to enrol has to provide minimal demographic and biometric information during the enrolment process which is totally free of cost.
An individual needs to enrol for Aadhaar only once and after de-duplication only one Aadhaar shall be generated, as the uniqueness is achieved through the process of demographic and biometric de-duplication.
Aadhaar number is devoid of any intelligence and does not profile people based on caste, religion, income, health and geography.
The Aadhaar number is a proof of identity, however, it does not confer any right of citizenship or domicile in respect of an Aadhaar number holder.
Aadhaar identity platform enables the Government of India to directly reach residents of the country in delivery of various subsidies, benefits and services by using the resident’s Aadhaar number only.
Why in News?
Global rating major Moody’s Investors Service has flagged concerns about security and privacy vulnerabilities in centralised identification systems like India’s Aadhaar programme.
The unique ID system often results in “service denials”, and using biometric technologies in humid conditions is unreliable, it noted.
The rating agency’s remarks assume significance in view of the government’s adoption of Aadhaar for routing direct benefit transfers to beneficiaries of official welfare schemes.
Moody’s acknowledged Aadhaar as “the world’s largest digital ID program” that assigns unique numbers to over 1.2 billion Indian residents using biometric and demographic data.
Stressing that ID systems like Aadhaar lead to the concentration of sensitive information with specific entities and increase the risks of data breaches, Moody’s made a pitch for decentralised ID (DID) systems such as digital wallets, based on blockchain capabilities that give users more control of their private data and can reduce online fraud.
The adoption of DID — where personal data is saved in a user’s digital wallet and identity verification takes place not via a single, centralised institution but on a decentralised digital ledger such as a blockchain — increases privacy and reduces the amount of personal information held by intermediaries.
The DID can be stored and managed in a user’s portable and reusable digital wallet, rather than by a government, business, employer, or other entity.
Decentralised IDs also pose some challenges, Moody’s conceded. At a broader level, it warned that digital IDs, centralised or not, can have negative social repercussions, since they may strengthen group identities and political divides, particularly if offered by technology and social media companies with significant monopolistic influence.