The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has begun its crackdown on fraudulent apps and websites which are offering Aadhaar-based services by illegally charging users. The organization has reportedly shut down 12 websites and 12 mobile apps available on the Google Play Store. Additionally, 26 more such illegal websites or apps have also been directed to a shutdown. These apps and websites were allegedly charging excessive fee for services which are otherwise free for public such as downloading of Aadhaar card or status of its generation, etc.
By doing so, these services were illegally obtaining Aadhaar card number or enrolment details of the public, UIDAI said in a statement to ET. “UIDAI has not authorised the owners of these mobile applications or websites to extend any Aadhaar related services on its behalf”, said Dr. Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO, UIDAI, is quoted as saying. He further added that the authority was contemplating stern action against the violators.
Aadhaar Card details of an individual include information on residence, age, and contact, etc and the registration process involves biometric authentication. The UIDAI says that any Aadhaar-related information can only be shared following procedures which are laid down in the Aadhaar Act, 2016 and any violation of the provision is punishable.
According to the Act, whoever is not being authorized by the authority and collects Aadhaar-related information is punishable if the entity downloads, copies or extracts any data from the Central Identities Data or Repository or stores the information in any removable storage medium.
The UIDAI has also issued a warning against unauthorized websites and mobile app providers who are using the Aadhaar logo illegally to make their services appear authentic to people. It is to be noted that it is not the first time that such a scam has come into public knowledge, however, given the large number of Indians who have their banks, LPG cylinders, passports, and even present-day mobile wallets linked to their Aadhaar numbers; the situation is alarming. One must be aware of such fraudulent service providers and remain vigilant.
The multi-purpose Aadhaar Card program was first launched in 2013 and today is a mandate for most services, government or non-government, which require identification proof. At the core of the identification programme is biometric authentication which makes it unique to each resident of the country. In light of demonetization, the government has taken steps to use Aadhaar to facilitate digital payments and help drive a cashless economy. In doing so, the government recently launched the BHIM app which is a common UPI app for cashless transactions. However, within a few days of launch, numerous fake versions of the app were seen on the Google Play Store. Although the government takes notice of such activities and issues relevant orders to curb their spread, as an end-user it is always wiser to verify the authenticity of any particular app, website, or service before divulging confidential details.
Written with input from BGR