Facebook recently ran a test asking new users signing up on its platform to use the name as it appears on their Aadhaar card. The new sign up process encouraged users to use the name on their Aadhaar card but didn’t ask for 12-digit Aadhaar number or other personal details.
Facebook said the move was meant to curb proliferation of fake accounts on its platform and has now clarified that its recent “Aadhaar prompt” not meant to collect Aadhaar information. In a blog post explaining the change, Facebook says the goal of this test was to help new users understand how to sign up on its platform with their real name. It says signing up with real name makes it easier to connect with friends and family.
At the point of account sign-up, new Facebook users were shown a page that read “What’s your name? Using the name on your Aadhaar card makes it easier for friends to recognize you.” The prompt was optional and was limited to a small set of users signing up on Facebook via mobile site.
“People were not required to enter the name on their Aadhaar card, and there is no integration or authentication with Aadhaar,” Taichi Hoshino, Product Manager wrote in the blog post.
The test did not ask new users to enter the name on their Aadhaar card but it drag itself into the ongoing Aadhaar privacy issues. Since Aadhaar became mandatory for new mobile connection and bank accounts, there have been reports of Aadhaar data being leaked putting critical information of citizens in unauthorized hands.
Bank in July, an independent website revealed Jio customer data including first name, last name, mobile number, email ID, SIM activation, circle and even Aadhaar number. It was one of the biggest known data breach in the country and it raised concerns on how telecom operators are handling such critical piece of user information.
The website got pulled down immediately but it left a big scar on the reputation of Aadhaar data which has been made available to many third-party vendors including telecom service providers. Recently Airtel Payments bank was barred from conducting Aadhaar-based e-KYC after it was found creating user accounts without their information.
Facebook says it ran the test with a small number of users in India and has now finished. Hoshino adds that Facebook has no plans to roll this test out further but plans to use the learning to provide a better sign-up experience. The ongoing mandatory Aadhaar linking and privacy debate going on around the 12-digit unique identity number has raised concerns and Facebook seems to have stepped on a wrong foot and has backtracked immediately.