The Department of Telecommunications has removed Aadhaar number as one of the 29 parameters required to be included by telecom companies in their databases of mobile subscribers. This paves the way for use of virtual ID, which can be used as a substitute for the Aadhaar number in the e-KYC process to purchase a new SIM card or re-verify an existing one.
“In order to further strengthen privacy and security of Aadhaar number holder at the time of authentication, UIDAI…has proposed to introduce some changes in Aadhaar ecosystem,” the DoT said in a circular dated June 12, asking the telecom operators to implement changes in their processes such as introduction of the virtual ID system and migration to a new system that provides the companies access to limited data of a user.
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has categorised telecom companies as local authentication user agencies, which means that they will have access to limited KYC and after the implementation of such changes in the Aadhaar ecosystem, telecom service providers will not be allowed to store Aadhaar number or virtual IDs of the customer while conducting authentication for e-KYC.
The UIDAI, in April, launched the virtual ID facility to generate a 16-digit virtual identification for Aadhaar holders. The virtual ID was introduced so that the actual 12-digit Aadhaar number is not required to be shared for authenticating the identity of a user. The move was a part of UIDAI’s initiative to put in place multi-layered security as an effort to reinforce privacy protection for Aadhaar holders.
Furthermore, the DoT has also asked the operators to display the Aadhaar number or the virtual ID of the consumer while conducting authentication in masked form – the way in which a password appears – at the point of sale terminal, while ensuring that the Aadhaar number or the virtual ID is not stored anywhere in the systems or applications or database. “If any incident of alteration/manipulation of any other field of subscriber database comes to the notice of this department, such connection shall be treated as pre-activated and penal action as per the existing instructions shall be taken,” the circular said.
Notably, while earlier it was mandatory to furnish Aadhaar number while purchasing a new mobile connection and to re-verify the existing ones, a Supreme Court ruling in March said that till it decides on whether the government’s demand for Aadhaar to be linked to private and public services is a violation of the right to privacy, the 12-digit unique number given to each citizen does not have to be linked to other services, including mobile subscriptions.