‘No Aadhaar Data Breach Ever,’ Repeats UIDAI CEO on Twitter Q&A
Over 1.1 billion Indians now have an Aadhaar, a unique identity number, which has become the government’s preferred ID proof. 
Over 1.1 billion Indians now have an Aadhaar, a unique identity number, which has become the government’s preferred ID proof. (Photo: iStock/Altered by The Quint)

‘No Aadhaar Data Breach Ever,’ Repeats UIDAI CEO on Twitter Q&A

On 28 January, World Data Privacy Day, the CEO of UIDAI Ajay Bhushan Pandey answered questions posed to the Aadhaar authority about the controversial biometric database and its safety. In the “one-hour live Q&A,” the UIDAI’s CEO answered specific questions posed to the authority, sharing recorded video answers and responses to a few of the questions posed.

Here’s a look at some of the more important questions that the UIDAI answered in the one-hour Q&A

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‘Not a Single Aadhaar Data Breach in Seven Years’

In response to the question about what systems are in place to protect Aadhaar data from a breach, Bhushan assures that the world’s “best technologies from different companies” have been used to protect Aadhaar data. He adds that this is why “there hasn’t been a single incident of Aadhaar data breach or Aadhaar data theft in 7 years.”

Also Read : Aadhaar’s Dirty Secret Is Out, Anyone Can Be Added as a Data Admin

Can the Government Block a Citizen’s Access to Services Linked to Their Aadhaar?

In response to a question posed by The Quint’s Vishnu Gopinath, Bhushan responded that the government has no authority whatsoever to freeze bank accounts of citizens linked to Aadhaar, reiterating that this was a misconception and that people need NOT have any fears about the government freezing accounts.

Government has no authority to freeze anyone’s bank account linked to Aadhaar for any reason. People should have no fear that one day the government will freeze their accounts. This is a misconception.
Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO, UIDAI 

Also Read : Eight Stories That Ask – Are We Really Ready for Aadhaar, India?

What Provision Protects From Misuse of Aadhaar Data By Govt or Other Bodies?

Bhushan said that Sections 28 & 29 of the Aadhaar Act provide for punishment for unauthorised Aadhaar data leaks, adding that your data will never be shared with anyone without your permission. He reiterates that the UIDAI cannot share biometric data without explicit permission.

Sections 28 & 29 of the Aadhaar Act say that your data will never be shared with anyone without your permission. Banks or mobile companies cannot share your data with other entities without your permission. Even in case the courts require your data, the UIDAI cannot share it without permission. There is a 3-year jail sentence for anyone who does so.
Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO, UIDAI 

Also Read : Why is UIDAI So Confused on Whether Aadhaar Database Was Breached?

Was Virtual Aadhaar a Response to ‘The Tribune’ Story on Aadhaar Data Leak?

In response to a question about whether the e-KYC & Virtual ID was put out in response to The Tribune report titled Rs 500, 10 minutes, and you have access to billion Aadhaar details, Bhushan reiterated that “no data breach had occurred, and that the new features were long overdue.”

‘No One Can Be Denied Rations For Lack of Aadhaar’

In response to a question posed by The Quint’s Meghnad Bose about instances of people in Jharkhand being denied rations for not linking their Aadhaar numbers, Bhushan responded that Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act clearly states that benefits must be given based on alternate means of identification.

Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act says that for giving any benefits like the PDS, Aadhaar number is required. It also says that if supposing somebody doesn’t have Aadhaar, then the benefits or the subsidies have to be given based on the alternate means of identification. The government of India also has issued various circulars emphasising this point, that no one shall be denied for lack of Aadhaar. So in such situations, the question is that if any violations are taking place at a local level, then these matters have to be brought to the attention of the local authorities and then the matter should get rectified. So far as Aadhaar is concerned, Aadhaar Act is very clear – no denial for lack of Aadhaar.  

Also Read : Excluded by Aadhaar: The Poor Who Are Denied Rations and Pensions

Why Can’t an Individual File a Complaint Under Aadhaar Act?

In response, Bhushan confirms that in case of a violation of the Aadhaar Act, the UIDAI is the only body that can file a complaint for the same. However, citizens can file a complaint for violations under the Indian Penal Code or the IT Act. An answer about why this was the case, was not given.

If there is any complaint about misuse of your data pertaining to Aadhaar or even without Aadhaar, you are competent to file your complaint before the police station. What Aadhaar Act says is that the complaint can be filed with the police, however if there is any violation of Aadhaar Act, then the court will take cognisance only if the complaint is filed by an officer authorised by the UIDAI. So in case supposing if your complaint involves violation of some other law, for example Indian Penal code or the IT Act, then in that case, police can proceed. If the police did an investigation, if it finds out that there is a violation of Aadhaar Act, then in that case they will report to us and from there, we will take on.
Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO, UIDAI 

How Will Face ID Authentication Work? Who Will Carry it Out?

In response to the question of how facial recognition would work, Bhushan answered that facial ID would benefit labourers and others whose fingerprints had worn out or faced trouble authenticating their biometrics.

Twitter Abuzz With Questions

While the one hour time limit restricted the number of questions Bhushan could answer, a number of users raised important questions that went unanswered.

Other users wondered why the “actual” questions they posed weren’t being answered.

While some others claimed, based on their own personal experiences, that some of the statements made by the UIDAI CEO were not true, at least in their case.

Some pointed out that the “live Q&A,” was technically not even live.

While others had even less patience, stating that the UIDAI was “clearly scared” to do an open Q&A session.

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