The official Aadhaar enrolment software requires the Aadhaar operator to authenticate using iris scans as well as fingerprints. Huffington Post has reported an enrolment scam in Maharashtra, where Aadhaar enrolment officer, Mangesh Sitaram Bhalerao provided people who worked under him with rubber stamp copies of his thumbprint. These rubber stamp fingerprints were used by the underlings to login to the Aadhaar Enrolment Software and conduct enrolments and updations of Aadhaar data for a fee.

The Huffington Post article, however, does not appear to provide the full picture. For one, the use of rubber stamps to fool biometric scanners has been done before, in the Kanpur Aadhaar Enrolment Scam, Amroha Aadhaar Enrolment Scam, in Surat, when a bank official’s fingerprints were sold to run an enrolment scam.

Additionally, it isn’t just that copies of fingerprints were used, but the software itself being tampered. The untampered software requires operators to authenticate the iris as well. Mere copies of fingerprints should not allow access as operators – as per claims made by the UIDAI. In our view, the real scandal in the story reported by Huffington Post was the probable use of tampered software even by authorized Aadhaar operators.

This may not be as improbable as it sounds. UIDAI imposing fines on operators who don’t meet enrolment targets incentivizes “outsourcing”.

While the scammers running the unauthorized enrolments were caught, there are no reports of those selling the tampered software and fingerprint copies to them being caught.

The UIDAI continues to deny that their software can be and is being tampered, even as reports of unauthorized access mount.

Vidyut is a commentator on socio-political issues with a keen understanding of tech and policy. She has been observing and commenting on Aadhaar since 2010 from a perspective of human rights, democracy and technological robustness.

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