Update: Facebook has now clarified that it is ending Aadhaar prompt sign-up for new users in India. It says the test was run among a small set of users and the goal was simplify sign-up process for new users on its platform.
Facebook has started testing a new prompt asking new users in India to sign up using their real name as mentioned on the Aadhaar card. The move comes amidst the ongoing debate whether Aadhaar should be made mandatory for anything beyond mandatory services.
Facebook is testing a new “name as per Aadhaar” prompt when users create a new account on its mobile site. The prompt reads “What’s your name? Using the name on your Aadhaar card makes it easier for friends to recognize you.” The mobile version of Facebook with Aadhaar prompt was first spotted by Reddit users and consequently shared on Twitter.
However, the prompt to use real name as mentioned on Aadhaar cannot be seen by everyone. We were unable to reproduce the prompt on our mobile connection routed through an Indian IP. It seems like Facebook is A/B testing the prompt where visitors are served with two versions of its mobile site.
Facebook says the new Aadhaar name prompt is designed to curb the number of fake accounts on its social media platform. Facebook has over two billion active users but India is its largest market with over 241 million active users.
— Srinivas Kodali | శ్రీనివాస్ కొడాలి (@digitaldutta) December 26, 2017
The social networking giant says the move will encourage users to sign up with their real identity. “We want to make sure people can use the names they’re known by on Facebook, and can easily connect with friends and family. This is a small test where we provide additional language when people sign up for an account to say that using the name on their Aadhaar card makes it easier for friends to recognize them. This is an optional prompt which we are testing, people are not required to enter the name on their Aadhaar card,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
The prompt is being seen by only a small number of users and it even seems that Facebook is curtailing on its widespread testing since it was spotted by Reddit users. Facebook makes it clear that using the name mentioned on Aadhaar is optional and the only goal is to make sure that people sign up with their real name.
The mobile site only asks users to sign up with their real name as seen on their Aadhaar ID and doesn’t request for Aadhaar details. The Silicon Valley giant is steering away from Aadhaar privacy issues here but it is not clear what Facebook gains by particularly mentioning Aadhaar in its sign-up page.
Aadhaar was conceived to be a unified ID for Indians that would aid in availing critical benefits from the government. However, it was not designed to be used as a verification tool on social media platforms. Facebook has not clarified whether it sought permission from the government or UIDAI before showing Aadhaar prompt to a small set of users.