Facebook clarified that this was a small test to encourage people to give their real identity, and that it was not mandatory.
New Delhi: A controversy broke on Wednesday after it emerged that social media giant Facebook was asking new users in India to give their name as it appears on their Aadhaar cards for opening an account.
Though Facebook clarified that this was a small test to encourage people to give their real identity, and that it was not mandatory, the move raises questions and concerns about the privacy of social media users and how Aadhaar is becoming essential for more and more services despite the fact that several petitions pertaining to it are still pending in Supreme Court.
Facebook said it isn’t asking for new users’ Aadhaar number, just their name as per the Aadhaar card.
“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 recognise them,” said Facebook in a statement. “This is an optional prompt which we are testing, people are not required to enter the name on their Aadhaar card,” it added.
According to sources, this is a test and only a small percentage of people who use Facebook on mobile phones in India are seeing it. Sources added that it was only a suggestion and there was no background check with any government data to verify that the name given was as per Aadhaar.
On whether Facebook plans to integrate registration of new and old users with their Aadhaar cards, sources in the company said, “This was a small test. Nothing further to share at this point.” Facebook usually asks new users to give their mobile number and email to check their credentials.
In July this year, India overtook the US to become Facebook’s largest country audience with a total 241 million active users, compared to 240 million in the US.
Facebook isn’t the first online company to ask consumers for Aadhaar. Earlier, an online retailer had asked customers to upload their Aadhaar numbers to track lost packages.
Petitions challenging the validity of linking Aadhaar with bank accounts and phone numbers are being heard by the Supreme Court. If the government clears this hurdle, over 50 services and schemes will require the mandatory linking of Aadhaar.