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Airtel Payments Bank replaces OTP with face verification to open accounts

Airtel Payments Bank announced using facial recognition tech to verify customer details during KYC, but what about privacy concerns?

What’s the news: Opening an Airtel Payments Bank account becomes easier but with greater privacy risks as the telecom company introduces face authentication-based e-KYC, said Financial Express (FE). As per the report, users previously had to link their Aadhaar card to open an account and then carry out OTP verification or biometric fingerprint authentication. As per a statement, the company introduced this new system to ‘improve’ user experience by becoming the “primary provider” of such a facility. Anubrata Biswas, CEO & MD of Airtel Payments Bank, said in the statement that face verification is a huge step to provide “inclusive banking in the country.” “This KYC facility uses AI/ML based Face Authentication RD Application, which helps in the prevention of fraudulent activities by cross-checking [an] individual’s photo with the image captured in Aadhaar and allows secure customer onboarding,” he said. Why it matters: Facial recognition is not an exact technology. Even the systems used by Delhi police to detect alleged miscreants during riots are often only 80 percent accurate. Moreover, the UIDAI has explicitly said it “provides no assurance” of demographic data accuracy. On the other hand, the Delhi High Court in 2018 pushed for OTP verification over biometric authentication in a case relating to issuance of SIM cards. This raises questions on why the company feels switching to facial recognition is a good idea – that too at a time when citizens have no safeguards against the misuse of such technology. User privacy may also be compromised if the…

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I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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