The government has withdrawn a statement "with immediate effect" that asked people not to share photocopies of Aadhaar over misuse risks. It withdrew the statement "in view of the possibility of the misinterpretation of the press release", the government said today.
The Unique Identification Authority of India, or UIDAI, in the earlier statement had suggested the use of masked Aadhaar, which shows only the last four digits of the document, and not to share photocopies of the unmasked document with random organisations.
The Aadhaar authority's statement came under criticism from privacy experts and activists on social media, who said the UIDAI should have taken care of this risk a long time ago and informed the public then.
The latest government statement, however, indicated this criticism is based on a misinterpretation of the advisory, as the UIDAI only advised people to "exercise normal prudence in using and sharing their Aadhaar numbers."
"It is learnt that it (earlier UIDAI statement) was issued by them in the context of an attempt to misuse a photoshopped Aadhaar card. The release advised the people to not to share photocopy of their Aadhaar with any organisation because it can be misused. Alternatively, a masked Aadhaar which displays only the last 4 digits of Aadhaar number, can be used," the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said today.
"However, in view of the possibility of the misinterpretation of the press release, the same stands withdrawn with immediate effect. UIDAI issued Aadhaar card holders are only advised to exercise normal prudence in using and sharing their UIDAI Aadhaar numbers. Aadhaar identity authentication ecosystem has provided adequate features for protecting and safeguarding the identity and privacy of the Aadhaar holder," the ministry said.
The government's definition of "normal prudence" would include personal safeguards that one uses while transacting sensitive documents.
The Supreme Court in 2018 upheld the validity of the Aadhaar, but flagged privacy concerns and reined in a government push to make it mandatory for everything from banking to telecom services.