By Elton Gomes
In an attempt to make the Aadhaar more secure, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has introduced an updated ‘QR code’ and a paperless KYC (know your customer) that holds users’ non-sensitive details like name, address, photo, and date of birth. The QR code can be used for offline user verification without the 12-digit Aadhaar number.
As Aadhaar is increasingly being used to complete all types of work, the new QR code, which comes with a photo, can be used in an offline mode such that it will protect users against any tempering of documents.
Aadhaar holders can download and print their biometric ID, which will be equipped with the QR code, from the website of the UIDAI or its mobile app.
Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO of UIDAI, said, “The offline QR code is a landmark development which will allow everyone to establish their identity through offline verification without giving out Aadhaar number,” Business Standard reported.
What is the offline KYC process?
Through the offline KYC process, users will no longer have to reveal their Aadhaar numbers, the collection of which has come under intense scrutiny due to several controversies over potential data mining and tracking.
The offline processes will fulfil the Supreme Court’s verdict that ruled out biometrics-based Aadhaar authentication for private firms. The offline KYC can be used by service providers, including the government, and will be in addition to other IDs such as driving licences, ration, and electoral photo cards, passports and PAN cards.
How to avail the QR codes
To use the QR codes, a service provider needs to download a QR code reader from the UIDAI website or get a scanner that can read the code on an Aadhaar card.
Aadhaar holders can download and print their biometric ID, which will have the QR code, from the UIDAI’s website or app. The feature reportedly displays the photograph of the Aadhaar user, which allows various agencies to verify the authenticity of Aadhaar card data offline.
Benefits of going offline
Officials have said that offline KYC and QR codes protect users’ privacy as UIDAI will have no knowledge of their use. Additionally, users also have to the option to restrict demographic information, thus they can give out only their name and address.
Since the tools are offline, it has been reported that the government will not know whether you have used Aadhaar to open a bank account, buy insurance, or acquire a SIM.
Officials further said that the two tools were developed prior to the Supreme Court’s Aadhaar verdict. “For everything other than direct benefit transfer, the two applications can be used for authentication. This also addresses concerns of fintech companies,” a source told the Times of India.
The Aadhaar verdict
On September 26, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and said that it empowered the marginalised sections. The Supreme Court, in its ruling, said that Aadhaar will not be mandatory for obtaining SIM cards and for opening bank accounts.
The verdict was seen as a victory to the Narendra Modi government, however, significant confusion prevailed over certain parts. For instance, the Supreme Court had held that allowing the private sector to access biometric and demographic information could be equated with commercial exploitation. In this regard, the apex court struck down a portion of Section 57 that enables bodies corporate and individuals to seek authentication.
In his article in Live Mint, Rahul Matthan raised several questions over this, such as: “Does it imply that no private entities whatsoever can use the authentication infrastructure? If so, how does that interpretation square with the rest of the judgment that unequivocally upholds the use of Aadhaar for the purposes of dispensing subsidies and other government benefits?”
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius