What’s the news? Pune airport will have facial recognition systems, by next year reports The Indian Express.  These systems will be installed at checkpoints like airport entry, security checks and airport boarding, according to the report. The project will reportedly cost about Rs 14 crore.

Who’s building these systems? Japanese electronics giant NEC Technologies. Its Indian subsidiary has been awarded the tender. NEC will also be responsible for the maintenance of these systems for a period of 7 years.

NEC sounds familiar: That’s because NEC Technologies is working to introduce facial recognition system for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, along with chipmakers Intel.

Facial recognition at Indian airports sounds familiar: That’s because Delhi’s IGI airport already has operational facial recognition systems at its T3 terminal. Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport will introduce check-ins through facial recognition technology this year. Facial recognition cameras were tested at the Hyderabad airport between July 1 to July 3.

How will these systems work? While The Indian Express report doesn’t explain how these systems will function, here’s how the ones at Delhi airport do:

  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).

What we don’t know: At this point in time, we don’t know if the systems at Pune airport will be made mandatory for all passengers. We also don’t know much about the data collection and sharing policy of the airport as of now. The systems at Delhi airport are currently not mandatory. The airport has also said that it’ll delete passengers’ data from these systems as soon as their flight takes off.

We don’t know if data from these systems would be shared with intelligence agencies.

We also don’t know what these systems wish to achieve. If the motto is to make airport travel “seamless”, then, under the Digi Yatra initiative, it is necessary to use Aadhaar cards as your ID proof. You won’t have to get your ID physically verified by a CISF personnel if you are using a Aadhaar card. For every other ID proof (voter ID, driving license, passport etc.) passengers have to get them physically verified.