By Elton Gomes
What is the Virtual ID
The Virtual ID is a 16-digit random number mapped with a user’s Aadhaar number. A Virtual ID can only be generated, replaced, or revoked by the Aadhaar number holder. At any point in time, there will only be one active and valid Virtual ID for an Aadhaar card. Instead of providing your Aadhaar number, the Virtual ID will now allow you to authenticate transactions and know-your-customer (KYC) services.
In a statement issued in January, the UIDAI said that an Aadhaar number cannot be procured from a Virtual ID. Aadhaar card holders can regenerate a Virtual ID multiple times – this makes it safer than mentioning your Aadhaar number at many instances. Currently, the Virtual ID is valid for a minimum of one day – which means that an Aadhaar holder can regenerate a new Virtual ID a day after he had generated the first ID. An expiry date for the Virtual ID has not yet been stated, and the ID will be valid till a new one is generated by the user.
Where and how to use the Virtual ID
As the Supreme Court has extended the deadline for linking Aadhaar to avail certain services, definite guidelines on the use of Aadhaar seem to be in the pipeline. The Virtual ID can currently be used in services, such as opening a bank account or purchasing an insurance policy. Users can follow the step-by-step guide in order to generate their own Virtual ID.
When a customer has to authenticate himself/herself in order to avail certain financial services, he/she has to give their 12-digit Aadhaar number and an OTP that they receive on their mobile. Media reports suggest that from July 1 onwards, instead of the Aadhaar number, a Virtual ID can be provided.
The UIDAI and privacy
The UIDAI has come under fire after reports of Aadhaar data being leaked. The Virtual ID is the UIDAI’s latest attempt to reinforce multi-layered security for Aadhaar protection. Virtual IDs allow for sharing of IDs, a user’s Aadhaar number seemingly remains safe, as per a UIDAI circular.
The UIDAI is of the opinion that as Virtual ID masks Aadhaar numbers, it will be a more safer and viable option. However, a Firstpost article argues against the approach taken by the UIDAI. The article claims that the UIDAI has taken a narrow approach when it comes to privacy and protecting biometric data. Furthermore, the article opines that the UIDAI displays “either a lack of understanding or a lack of concern with the larger privacy and security issues.” In order to fully protect privacy, the UIDAI should first tend to issues that have risen in the past.
The Aadhaar card has been linked to a complete entanglement of user privacy. An article in the Wire questions the existence of a centralised, inter-linking database like that of Aadhaar. Rather than looking for ways to protect Aadhaar numbers, the UIDAI needs highly efficient and clear reforms to data sharing and usage within the Aadhaar ecosystem.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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