Centre for Internet & Society

Unauthorized printing of Aadhaar cards could render the QR (quick response) code dysfunctional or even expose personal data without an individual’s informed consent, UIDAI says.

The article by Komal Gupta was published by Livemint on February 7, 2017

To protect information provided by holders of Aadhaar, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on Tuesday cautioned people against opting for plastic or laminated “smart” cards.

Unauthorized printing of the cards could render the QR (quick response) code dysfunctional or even expose personal data without an individual’s informed consent, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Besides, opting for plastic or laminated cards opened up the possibility of Aadhaar details (personal sensitive demographic information) being shared with devious elements without the informed consent of holders, the statement added.

According to UIDAI, the Aadhaar letter sent by it, a cutaway portion or downloaded versions of Aadhaar on ordinary paper or mAadhaar are perfectly valid.

“If a person has a paper Aadhaar card, there is absolutely no need to get his/her Aadhaar card laminated or obtain a plastic Aadhaar card or so called smart Aadhaar card by paying money. There is no concept such as smart or plastic Aadhaar card,” UIDAI chief executive officer Ajay Bhushan Pandey said in a statement.

Printing Aadhaar on a plastic/PVC sheet privately can cost anywhere between Rs50 and Rs300 or more, UIDAI said. It added that a printout of the downloaded Aadhaar card, even in black and white, is as valid as the original Aadhaar letter sent by UIDAI.

It added that in case a person loses his Aadhaar card, he can download the card free from https://eaadhaar.uidai.gov.in.

Pandey asked holders not to share Aadhaar number or personal details with unauthorized agencies for getting the card laminated, or printed on plastic.

The agency also directed unauthorized agencies not to collect Aadhaar information from people, reminding them that collecting such information or unauthorized printing of Aadhaar card is a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment.

“I feel a lot more has to be done by UIDAI. Sadly, by encouraging people to rely on printed Aadhaar ‘cards’, UIDAI is ending up with the worst of both worlds with respect to personal data protection: photocopies of so-called Aadhaar cards/letter are being circulated to facilitate identity fraud as well as the kind of dangerous personal data disclosures that centralized databases enable,” said Pranesh Prakash, policy director at think tank Centre for Internet and Society.

Last month, UIDAI put in place a two-layer security to reinforce privacy protections for Aadhaar holders—it introduced a virtual identification so that the actual number need not be shared to authenticate their identity. Simultaneously, it further regulated the storage of the Aadhaar numbers within various databases.