The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and operators are bracing for a rise in instances of fraud as they return to old forms of physical customer verification as proof after the Supreme Court order barred Aadhaar-based biometric verification.
Although alternate digital forms of customer verification are being worked upon and the telecom department has started working with security agents who will test the prototypes, all parties are afraid that none of these methods will be as fool proof as Aadhaar.
"The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will work with the security agents who will test prototypes sent by the operators. Right now there are suggestions on using QR codes but none of the options will be as safe as the Aadhaar," said a DoT official, who did not want to be named.
"We are following SC's orders. In case of Aadhaar, biometrics could not go wrong but tomorrow, if a person comes with false documents, there is no way to prove that those papers do not belong to him," added the official.
The telecom department last Friday barred operators from Aadhaar-based digital authentication in line with a Supreme Court order, dealing a big blow to the likes of Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea who now have to revert to the more time-taking and costly means of physically verifying subscriber details, till an alternate method is implemented. Operators have been given time till November 5 to comply with the order and offer proof of concepts of the alternate digital means of customer verification for approval.
The industry too is sceptical on issues of customer data safety in the new format.
"We have said that Aadhaar remains the safest way of verification for customer, government and telecom service providers. The testing of the proof of concepts is yet to start but it will not be as fool proof as Aadhaar was," said Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents private telcos.
DoT's timeline too may be a tight one considering the festive season has started and a week to come up with alternate method may not be enough.
Mathews added that "Individual telcos will approach the DoT to provide proof of concept and will implement as soon as they are approved by the DoT. This will be on an individual basis and so there may be early movers and laggards depending on the readiness of individual operators”.
The Supreme Court on September 26 had struck down the use of Aadhaar by private entities for digital authentication.