Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport will introduce check-ins through facial recognition technology as part of the Civil Aviation Ministry’s Digi Yatra initiative, reports Indian Express. To be implemented between in third quarter this year, passengers will need only a smartphone for e-Aadhaar and biometric-based authentication to board a domestic flight. Bangalore’s KIA and Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport successfully conducted pilot projects for Aadhaar-based paperless boarding. In 2018, KIA signed an agreement with Vision-Box, a digital and biometric solutions services provider based in Lisbon, to implement the technology. Note that Aadhaar-based paperless boarding is supposed to be an additional and non-mandatory feature and the existing paper-based processes will continue for those not opting to link their airline tickets with their Aadhaar. The government unveiled the initiative, for a “paperless and hassle-free” experience at airports last October.

How it will work

  • Passengers will use the centralised Digi Yatra registration system, which will take their name, e-mail id, mobile number and details of any identity proof, including Aadhaar.
  • Once the tickets are booked, the system will assign each passenger a unique Digital Yatra ID. The airline will share the ID and passenger data with the relevant airport.
  • At the entry point or e-gate, the passenger will have his the barcode or QR code on his boarding pass or e-ticket scanned. The system will validate the passenger details and flight details.
  • The passenger’s identity will then be verified using facial recognition and the Digital Yatra ID.

MediaNama’s take

The problem of passengers entering airports on fake tickets (or possibly using fake identification – like a tampered Aadhaar printout) cannot be eliminated while this process is non-mandatory, as those passengers will continue to enter airports using existing methods. Making the linking of Aadhaar with airline tickets mandatory will have legal challenges with regard to privacy and potential for surveillance. The very real and very expensive (in this case) risk of biometric authentication failing should encourage passengers to keep printed copies of their documents instead of Aadhaar.

While adding biometric authentication to the process will allow for verification of identity, those using fake identities will be able to evade it by simply using the old processes, so it isn’t very useful as a security measure. Only the innocent are likely to be “caught” by biometric mismatches, while those using fraudulent identity will simply avoid using biometrics.

In addition, lets not forget that Aadhadar has a history of fake identities being discovered, and the UIDAI has no known method for weeding out fakes. In that regard, this really serves no purpose.

San Francisco’s ban on facial recognition technology

Yesterday, San Francisco banned the use of facial recognition technology by local government agencies, becoming the first US city to do so. The ban applies to 53 city departments, including the police, and is part of a broader anti-surveillance ordinance that the city’s Board of Supervisors approved 8-1. Under the new ordinance, city departments must also disclose any surveillance technologies that they use or plan to use, and must also spell out policies regarding them that must then be approved by the Board of Supervisors. The ban does not prevent individuals or businesses from using facial recognition technology, and does not apply to areas under federal jurisdiction such as ports and airports.