Telecom watchdog RS Sharma left red-faced after his Aadhaar bravado lands him in deep embarrassment

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Telecom watchdog RS Sharma was left red-faced on Saturday after his bravado on Aadhaar turned out to be a source of deep embarrassment for himself and his family.
RS Sharma

This was after Sharma, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman, took to Twitter to share his Aadhaar number with a challenge that read, “My Aadhaar number is 7621 7768 2740 Now I give this challenge to you: Show me one concrete example where you can do any harm to me!”

Within minutes, Sharma was inundated with responses from hackers, who began to post all sorts of personal information about him on social media. One French security expert, Elliot Alderson replied declaring that he was able to obtain Sharma’s mobile number using his Aadhaar number. He wrote, “The phone number linked to this #Aadhaar number is 99585*****”

Alderson did not stop here. His information on Sharma was, “According to an official @nicmeity circular, this phone number is the number of your secretary.” He then posted a photo of Sharma with a lady adding that this was the profile photo of Sharma’s WhatsApp account. He wrote, “I supposed this is your wife or daughter next to you.”

Alderson’s next set of information on Sharma was quite frightening and showed just how dangerously people could access one’s private details in case of Aadhaar data breach. He wrote, “People managed to get your personal address, dob and your alternate phone number. I stop here, I hope you will understand why make your #Aadhaar number public is not a good idea.”

Alderson then also posted an evidence that Sharma’s gmail account had been breached using the Aadhaar number. He wrote, “Lol, according to @haveibeenpwned you have been pwned my friend.”

When contacted, Sharma refused to comment and all he said was, “Let the challenge run for some time.”

Sharma kept engaging with Twitter users reiterating his original point that no harm could be done using an individual’s Aadhaar number. In response to a user, he wrote, “I am not trying to prove anything. I am just saying that by knowing my Aadhaar number, which by the way, is a random 12 digit number, you cannot cause any harm to me. Please understand that I am merely trying to dis-abuse the mis-information around Aadhaar.”

One user expressed his concern on the country’s telecom watchdog chief openly throwing a challenge on internet. He wrote, “It’s sad to know you are TRAI Chairman, even if your bank details are not exposed yet, but don’t you think your email, phone number, pan etc also related to privacy, it’s fine if a normal person ask dumb questions like that not Trai chief. Unfortunate for our country.”

Sharma replied, “I understand your concern. Pl understand that I threw this challenge, not as TRAI Chairman, but as a normal citizen of India.”

The high drama played out on the microblogging platform just a day after Justice Srikrishna committee came out with its report on data protection where it mooted changes in the Aadhaar Act and proposed new safeguards to protect information of Aadhaar holders, reported PTI.

Meanwhile, Justice Srikrishna panel on data protection has recommended that the Aadhaar Act be amended “significantly” to bolster privacy safeguards, and mooted that only public authorities discharging public functions approved by the UIDAI or entities mandated by law be given the right to request for identity authentication.

The report, submitted on Friday, assumes significance given that public and private sectors are collecting and using personal data on an unprecedented scale and for various purposes, and instances of unregulated and arbitrary use, especially that of personal data, have raised concerns about privacy and autonomy of an individual.

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