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Aadhaar data secure, benefits extended to those even without card: UIDAI to SC

On the issue of safety of data, the UIDAI CEO said that the once the enrolment agency submits the biometric details after enrolment, the data is encrypted. He also said the UIDAI is “blind” and does not keep track of any transaction done by using the Aadhaar card.

india Updated: Mar 23, 2018 00:01 IST
Ashok Bagriya
Ashok Bagriya
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aadhaar,UIDAI,Supreme Court
A view of the Supreme Court building in New Delhi.(Sonu Mehta/HT File Photo)

Attempting to allay the safety and security concerns surrounding the biometric data collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) under the Aadhaar Act, the chief executive officer of UIDAI, Ajay Bhushan Pandey, told the Supreme Court on Thursday that the data collected are encrypted and even “the fastest computer on earth will take more than the age of the universe” to break the encryption key.

Making a PowerPoint presentation before the five-judge bench hearing petitions challenging the Aadhaar Act, Pandey claimed that “identity data are fully secure and uses 2,048-bit encryption and it can be decrypted only by the UIDAI.”

This was the first time that two screens were set up inside the courtroom of the Chief Justice and a PowerPoint presentation was made on a specific subject.

When hearing resumed Thursday, attorney general KK Venugopal sought permission to let the CEO make the presentation.

The court allowed the request, following which Pandey addressed the court to defend the 12-digit identification system and the security concerns around it.

Pandey said although UIDAI uses biometric matching software designed by three foreign companies, “it does not mean that we are sharing data with them. And we use the software offline.”

“The biometric matching software is like any software like Oracle or SAP – these are intellectual properties of the companies that made them and they do not give us the source code,” he said.

Significantly, the CEO conceded that authentication through Aadhaar is “not 100% successful”. “We constantly advise ministries that on the ground there will be exclusion if they solely depend on Aadhaar authentication. Which is why in law, exceptions have been made.”

Rebutting the argument that Aadhar was exclusionary, Pandey told the court that for people with leprosy, eye problems and other disorders where collecting biometrics was difficult, an exception was made. It is not linked to citizenship and includes transgenders and children within its scope, he added.

Justice DY Chandrachud expressed concerns over failure of authentication, “Denial of service on the ground of (lack of) authentication has to be remedied.” Earlier, the attorney general had cited a 2015 World Bank report in support of Aadhaar. But the Justice pointed out issues that the report itself had raised about the lack of legal framework. The next hearing will be on Tuesday.

First Published: Mar 22, 2018 20:55 IST