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Aadhaar-based facial recognition is the premise of this contest organised by the government

With plans to challenge participants on Aadhaar-based facial authentication, here’s why UIDAI’s Hackathon sets off alarm bells.

Credit: Intel blog

"UIDAI is soliciting innovative solutions to prove identity without sharing the Aadhaar number or any demographics information. Also, it is looking for innovative applications around face authentication API," the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in a press release on October 18, announcing the 'Aadhaar hackathon'. Using facial data for authentication is one of the themes of the hackathon which will run from October 28 to October 31. Participants will design real-world applications of such 'authentication products,' like check-ins at airports or for high-value transactions, UIDAI's problem statement for the hackathon said. The Indian government is increasingly looking to deploy facial recognition for authentication, including at exam centers and even for vaccine delivery. However, civil rights bodies have argued that such use of biometric data can be exclusionary, and violates the right to privacy. What does UIDAI have planned for the Aadhaar hackathon? Participants in the hackathon will develop authentication systems for four real-world applications of Aadhaar's biometric database: Smooth check-in at railway stations, airports, and hotels Opening a bank account using Aadhaar-based video KYC Use Aadhaar to improve trust in high-value transactions Achieving 100% authentication success in rural areas without network connectivity In all instances, participants were urged to assume that verifiers don't have access to the UIDAI database. Instead, the statement suggested, residents should share biometric data with verifiers, so that the process can take place locally. What's the problem with using Aadhaar-based facial recognition? There are two main problems with using facial recognition for applications like…

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