On July 28, when Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman RS Sharma shared his Aadhaar number on Twitter, he was apparently not expecting it to go viral. But it did. Soon after, ethical hackers revealed that they found a host of information about the TRAI chief, including his phone numbers, residential address, PAN number, voter ID, even his phone model and Air India frequent flyer ID. However, in an op-ed in The Indian Express, Sharma writes why he shared his Aadhaar number publicly.
To put it in context, Sharma, a former-UIDAI Director General has been vehemently supporting the Aadhaar programme. He has always backed the safety claims of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) system and dismissed concerns about privacy. In the op-ed, he says, "I thought about it and decided I should have the courage to act on my belief."
Sharma says that widespread fear-mongering has hindered the seamless adoption of Aadhaar that one can use to subscribe to multiple benefits. "By creating a scare, their objective is to discourage people from sharing the Aadhaar number, thus allowing the vested interests to continue to play as before," he says.
He further adds that we live in a digital world and many a times sites are not robustly build and sometimes users are not careful with their passwords. "But all such weakness in the ecosystem cannot be laid at the door of the UIDAI. My point is simple: Aadhaar does not contribute to increasing any of your other digital vulnerabilities," Sharma reiterates.
Sharma eventually addresses the hackers and claims that they did not find his details from the Aadhaar database but from information floating around the Internet that can be easily accessed by a generic Google search. He says that many of them even tried to hack his emails and sign him up for multiple services. Sharma says that their unsuccessful attempts have led him to receive a large number of OTPs.
"That's been a waste on their part and a waste of my time. Your time is wasted too, but apparently you don't care," he says addressing the hackers. "One interesting hack was to deposit one rupee in my account through the marvel of a system called UPI, which has been built by our country to enable financial inclusion on the scale we need," he says. Sharma further says that if the hackers define crediting Re 1 to an account then people would only be happy to get hacked.
"Would it be too much to expect an honest admission of these facts from the so-called hackers or critics of Aadhaar?" he asks. Sharma finally says that he has not lost the challenge.