Today, Aadhaar cards have become the most important and convenient piece of document for establishing your identity in India. From getting a new SIM card, accepting a courier, or opening a bank account – an Aadhaar card has become a mandatory prerequisite.
Multiple incidents of Aadhaar data breach
However, there have been multiple reports of leak of Aadhaar data.
In Jan 2018, an agent at an Aadhaar grievance redress facility in Surat, Gujarat, was found to be providing the details of any Aadhaar number. In this case, an FIR was lodged by the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India), a body of the Government of India.
The issue, in this case, was that the victim’s Aadhaar number was easily accessible to the perpetrator. Even a courier delivery person has access to this information, when identification is required to receive a courier (e.g., credit card).
Updated QR Code to not include Aadhaar number
In light of such data breaches, the UIDAI has decided to make the Aadhaar card more secure. This is particularly for offline verification—identification during deliveries, SIM card purchase, etc.
The UIDAI is doing this by updating the QR Codes on Aadhaar cards.
Currently, QR Codes already exist on the cards. However, these QR Codes are encoded with sensitive information such as Aadhaar card number, amongst other data. These QR Codes can easily be read using a generic QR Code scanning application.
The new QR Code will share limited information only—name, photo, address, and date of birth. Our best guess is that now instead of encoding the data directly into the QR Code, the new QR Code will take the user to a webpage hosted by UIDAI. This webpage will have the required information.
What you need to do to secure your Aadhaar
Getting the updated Aadhaar format is easy and can be done by the following steps:
- Login to UIDAI using their website or mobile app
- Take a printout of the new QR Code and blacken the Aadhaar number manually with a marker or black pen
- Take copies of this QR Code and share it with the merchant trying to verify your identity (e.g., the courier delivery person)
- The merchant can scan the QR Code to match the details on the card with the details revealed by the QR Code
Aadhaar now more secure but concerns around inclusivity
While updating the QR Codes in Aadhar cards is a wonderful initiative by the Government, a number of challenges need to be addressed:
- How will all the people be informed about this change?
- After downloading the new QR Code, the Aadhaar number needs to be blackened. Who will tell the illiterate about this step?
The Government will need to address these issues to ensure that everyone benefits from this initiative.
In 2018, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) launched ‘Aadhaar Paperless Local e-KYC’ for offline identity verification of Indian citizens.
This is one way how India is using QR Codes for various use cases.