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TRAI chief reveals Aadhaar number, Twitter challenge draws criticism

RS Sharma said knowledge of his UID number was harmless, but Twitter users disclosed his PAN and phone number using the information.

india Updated: Jul 29, 2018 16:40 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A visitor gives a thumb impression to withdraw money from his bank account with his Aadhaar or Unique Identification (UID) card during a Digi Dhan Mela, held to promote digital payment, in Hyderabad on January 18, 2017. (AFP)

RS Sharma, chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), disclosed his Aadhaar number on Twitter Sunday as a challenge to the information was harmless, but the move backfired when people revealed his personal details.

Elliot Alderson who describes himself as a French security researcher, dug up Sharma’s phone number, date of birth (DOB), and address. “People managed to get your personal address, dob and your alternate phone number. I stop here, I hope you will understand why make your #Aadhaar number public is not a good idea,” Alderson tweeted.

Several people tweeted to claim they had Sharma’s permanent account number (PAN) and cellphone number. Others warned him about the peril of throwing such a dare on social media.

Alderson put Sharma’s PAN on Twitter but blackened the number itself.

Many on Twitter claimed victory over ‘leaking’ Sharma’s personal details post the challenge. But the TRAI chief asserted that the challenge had never been about phone numbers and other information, but for causing harm using knowledge of his Aadhaar number.

Another Twitter user under the pseudonym Dean of #JioInstitute claimed to have accessed Sharma’s frequent flyer number with Air India.

The drama played out on Twitter just a day after Justice Srikrishna committee came out with its report on data protection where it mooted changes in the Aadhaar Act and proposed new safeguards to protect information of Aadhaar holders.

Sharma, former UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) director general, has been an ardent supporter of the Aadhaar program, vouching for the safety of the system, and dispelling privacy concerns surrounding Aadhaar even during his current tenure as TRAI Chief.

“Data privacy is a big and very important issue in a digital world. I am one of the most vociferous supporter of that. However, the only thing I am saying is that Aadhaar does not violate privacy,” Sharma had tweeted Saturday.

On Friday, the Justice Srikrishna panel on data protection recommended that the Aadhaar Act be amended “significantly” to bolster privacy safeguards, and mooted that only public authorities discharging public functions approved by the UIDAI or entities mandated by law be given the right to request for identity authentication.

The report assumes significance given that public and private sectors are collecting and using personal data on an unprecedented scale and for various purposes, and instances of unregulated and arbitrary use, especially that of personal data, have raised concerns about privacy and autonomy of an individual.

First Published: Jul 29, 2018 11:03 IST