India has been making it to the headlines this year for giving Apple a hard time and for potentially creating a security disaster in shape of the Aadhaar Card - India's version of the social security number, just a little more disastrous. The 12-digit unique identity number essentially stores all the sensitive information about an Indian citizen, but lacks the security protections raising privacy and security concerns locally and internationally. When this was introduced several years back, then chairman of Aadhaar issuer UIDAI had said that it could also be an easy way to verify Twitter and Facebook accounts.
It appears this might finally be happening.
Reports first spotted by mysmartprice claimed that some users on iOS are seeing a prompt to register with their Aadhaar name when opening up a new Facebook account. The social networking giant that has remained at the forefront of data collection in the past decade has lately been pushing users to send the company nudes and verify their accounts with their pictures. In one of these efforts, the social network is now apparently asking Indians to register with the names on their Aadhaar cards, raising obvious security concerns as the company and the government can then directly tie accounts to real people.
"UID can be an easy way for verifying one’s Twitter and Facebook account,” Nandan Nilekani, the architect of Aadhaar and then UIDAI Chairman had said at a 2011 conference.
This implies that anyone (not just celebrities) will be able to get verified accounts, with their UID credentials. It can similarly be used for other online accounts where one needs to verify his/her identity.
The union between Aadhaar and Facebook
While the original report only mentions this new prompt appearing on iOS, Wccftech can confirm that this prompt also appears on Chrome and Safari on macOS when using the Incognito and the Private mode, respectively.
Currently, this prompt isn't visible to every user, and isn't mandatory either. It just encourages users to enter their names as they appear on their Aadhaar cards. However, looking at what the Hollywood has long predicted, this could become mandatory in a few years. There goes the charm and protection of anonymity that the web promised to offer. With reports coming from several countries prosecuting citizens based on what they share through their social media accounts using terms like "spreading propaganda against the state" or "national security," this union between the real identities and the online presence comes with a fair share of concerns specifically for local rights activists, dissidents, and minorities.
Facebook has never really been focused on keeping its platform clean, taking up some responsibility on how it's used, or coming up with features that actually protect its users and not catch innocent users while still failing to eliminate bad actors. However, the company appears to have taken its anti-user-privacy efforts to the next level this year.
[Update]: Facebook doesn't promise if this will remain optional; says it's just a test
In response to our story, a Facebook spokesperson said in an email to Wccftech that this is a small test that the social networking site is carrying out in India. When asked if this will be turned into a mandatory requirement in the future, the company spokesperson said that "people are not required to enter the name on their Aadhaar card" avoiding any confirmation about its future plans.
Here's the company's comment to our story in full:
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.
In the Facebook-disasters timeline:
- After Demanding Nudes, FB Comes Up with Another Creepy Security “Feature”
- FB Reportedly Builds Censorship Tool to Get Back into China – Several Employees Quit
- Face ID? What Face ID! Say Hello to FB's Facial Recognition That Finds Photos You Aren’t Even Tagged In
- WhatsApp’s FB Problem: App Continues to Face Privacy Questions Thanks to Its Parent Company