The union cabinet has reportedly approved amendments in the Telegraph Act and Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to allow for voluntary use of Aadhaar details for opening bank accounts and getting phone sims.
After the Supreme Court’s ruling barring private companies from accessing Aadhar details, the government had been considering changes to the PMLA to help finance and telecom companies use Aadhaar for customer verification legally.
Under the proposed amendment, Aadhaar can be used by companies for authentication with the consent of the individual. These amendments will reportedly be introduced in the parliament during the ongoing winter session.
In a bid to strengthen the security and privacy of data, the amendment has also suggested that any attempt to breach the Aadhaar database will be punishable by 10 years in jail rather than the current, three year punishment.
Further, minors who have currently been issued Aadhaar number will also gain the right to withdraw from the biometric system when they turn 18 years of age. In that case, the Aadhaar-regulator, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), will have to delete all the biometric and associated information of the person.
Quoting a senior government official, media reports have also claimed that the Aadhaar-based authentication in offline mode will also stand legal scrutiny.
Recently, the central government has also sought an opinion from the Ministry of Law and Justice regarding the use of Aadhaar-based eSign services.
The eSign-based National Automated Clearing House (NACH) gateway that allowed Aadhaar holders to sign documents, digitally, was suspended by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) in November.
Govt’s Search For Aadhaar Alternatives
Government bodies are currently working overtime along with telecom and fintech companies to come up with alternative Know-Your-Customer (KYC) processes to avoid physical verification, which is costly and time consuming.
One of the most promising of these alternatives is Aadhaar verification via QR codes or XML format, which will prevent private players from getting access to the user’s biometric details.
According to the reports, the UIDAI is testing out machine-readable QR codes which will record minimum user details such as name, address and date of birth. These QR codes can be downloaded from the Aadhaar website and can be used without revealing the biometrics and the 12-digit unique Aadhaar number of the user.
Meanwhile the Reserve Bank of India is reportedly considering the use of live video verification for the electronic know-your-customer process.
In November, reports stated that the government is also planning to reintroduce Aadhaar-services in nearly 3 lakh Common Service Centres (CSC) located in the rural areas. The service was however stopped after the UIDAI refused to renew the registrar agreement of the CSC scheme due to allegations of corruption.
Amid the ongoing logjam of proposals and counter arguments, the safety of personal data has become a point of contention between the government which has spearheaded the adoption of Aadhaar, and privacy advocates.
[The development was reported by ET]