India has withdrawn a warning asking users not to share photocopies of their national biometric ID card following a widespread outcry from users on social media, many of whom pointed out it was the first time they heard of such a possibility.
A regional office of UIDAI, the body that oversees the national Aadhaar biometric identification system, warned users on Friday that “unlicensed private entities” such as hotels and theaters are “not allowed to collect or retain copies of Aadhaar”, a 12-digit code. unique number that links an individual’s fingerprints and retina scan, and people should avoid sharing photocopies of their Aadhaar to prevent abuse.
The warning provoked an immediate and wide reaction from individuals. “I may have stayed in almost 100 hotels that have kept a copy of my Aadhaar! Now this,” one individual tweeted, summing up the dilemma for tens of millions of people nationwide, if not more.
About 1.33 billion people in India, roughly the entire population of the country, have registered with Aadhaar, an identification system that was unveiled about 13 years ago, according to official government figures. . This scale of adoption makes Aadhaar the largest biometric identity system in the world.
Although Aadhaar has been touted as one of the most sophisticated ID systems in the world, critics have raised concerns about how its use case has been expanded and made mandatory across multiple life services. despite New Delhi marketing Aadhaar as a “voluntary” identification system.
On Sunday afternoon, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology played down the warning following the backlash, saying the original notice was issued by UIDAI’s Bengaluru regional office as part of raising awareness of the potential “misuse” of a “photoshopped Aadhaar card”.
“However, in view of the possibility of misinterpretation of the press release, the same is withdrawn with immediate effect,” he added.
“UIDAI-issued Aadhaar cardholders are only advised to exercise normal caution in using and sharing their UIDAI Aadhaar numbers. The Aadhaar Identity Authentication Ecosystem has provided adequate features to protect and safeguard the identity and privacy of the Aadhaar Holder.”