Aadhaar-enabled biometric machines will make a debut at the general ticketing counter in Ludhiana railway station within the next three months, according to a Times of India report. Authorities of the station have already sent a demand for these machines at the Ferozepur division, the report added.
The report claims that these systems are being deployed for two purposes: to keep a check on the railway staff at the general ticketing counters, and tackle the menace of touts at the ticketing booth. However, isn’t there a more non-intrusive way of doing this? Also, what would happen if a railway employee denies consent to go through these biometric systems? In addition, 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.
It’s unclear for now where the data collected by the railway station will be stored, how long it will be retained for, and how they will deal with data protection and privacy concerns around biometric authentication. Will these systems be integrated with larger criminal detection surveillance systems such as the CCTNS (Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems)?
At the moment, it isn’t clear if these machines will be used for scanning passengers as well. A Northern Railways spokesperson was unavailable for comment. The Mumbai Central and Bandra Terminus railway stations of the Western Railway have had biometric systems for issuing tokens to passengers, since August this year. The Delhi metro is also planning to install such systems at its stations.
Biometric authentication becoming pervasive: Biometric authentication is already being experimented with, at Delhi’s international airport using a facial recognition system at all the checkpoints prior to boarding a flight. Bangalore’s Kempegowda airport too has these systems in certain parts of the airport. Pune airport will also reportedly have these systems installed at its premises by 2020. Apart from becoming increasingly pervasive at stations and airports, schools in Gujarat have also started using the technology to ensure attendance of teachers and students.
On top of all of this, the Indian government is building a centralised automated facial recognition system (AFRS) which will be combined with various databases available with state police across the country. Every single machine, which collects facial data, might eventually be linked to the AFRS without subjects not necessarily consenting to it.