Starting today, passengers’ entry at all check points of the Delhi airport — airport entry, entry in to security checks, and aircraft boarding — would be processed by facial recognition systems, according to a statement by Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL). It is called Biometric Enabled Seamless Travel Experience (BEST), and will be operational for the next three months on a “trial basis”. It will be first launched with Vistara Airlines at Terminal 3 (T3) of the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport. After successful completion of the trial, the facility will be “officially” launched at T3 and subsequently at other terminals of the Delhi airport, the statement added.

How exactly will this system work? Here’s how:

  1. A registration kiosk with a camera on it will capture a passenger’s facial details.
  2. Following this, a CISF personnel present at the kiosk will physically check the passenger’s ID proof and confirm it on the system.
  3. After the security check, the passenger can enter the boarding area by going through an e-gate. These e-gates have cameras fixed onto them and will open automatically after they recognise the passenger’s face (which was input on the registration kiosk).

Is it mandatory to go through all this facial recognition tech? No, according to DIAL’s statement.

“Participation in the trials is purely voluntary and at discretion of the passengers. A suitable consent form will be signed by the passengers.” – DIAL

Is there a catch here? Could be. The statement says that participation in these “trials” will be voluntary. What about when these systems are no longer under the trial period? Will going through them become mandatory then? We’ve reached out to DIAL for a clarification on this.

So, what about the data that these systems would collect? According to the statement:

“During the trial period”, biometric details will be stored temporarily and will be deleted after the passenger’s flight has departed. There will be no storage of the biometric details by the airport.

“This solution is in complian[ce] with the guidelines of Privacy-by-Design, an internationally recognised standard for privacy.” – DIAL

Why this matters: It is unclear at the moment as to what will happen with data collection and storage once the trial period is over and these systems become a mainstay. We’ve reached out to DIAL for a clarification on this.

Who provided the technical support for this facial recognition tech? Vision Box – a Portuguese multinational company – has provided technical and software support for the system.

There’s more: The statement talks about the time when “the complete Digi Yatra platform” will come into existence – it says that passengers can sign up for a “one-time” registration process for these facial recognition systems, so that when they travel anywhere in India, concerned airports with this tech installed can go through the system to validate passengers’ details.