In a significant development, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) announced that it would soon introduce a facial recognition system to authenticate the identity of citizens, along with a fingerprint or iris scan, reported the Press Trust of India.
The rationale behind this move is that those who have trouble with the fingerprint and iris scan system will now have an additional mode of authentication.
As per the UIDAI’s statement to the press, this facial recognition facility will be available from July 1, 2018. “This facility is going to help in inclusive authentication of those who are not able to biometrically authenticate due to their worn-out fingerprints, old age or hard work conditions,” the UIDAI said. Under the current system, fingerprint and iris authentication are allowed under Aadhaar.
“The face authentication provides an additional option for all residents to have inclusive authentication. It shall be allowed only in a fusion mode along with one more authentication factor combined with either fingerprint or iris or OTP to be able to authenticate an Aadhaar number holder successfully,” UIDAI added.
The mismatch of biometrics is creating serious problems for many people, including senior citizens and agricultural labour with fading fingerprints.
Last week, the UIDAI announced the establishment of a new security system, whereby Aadhaar number holders do not have to submit their unique IDs to verify their personal details when applying for certain services. When applying for a new phone number, for example, the consumer need not share his/her Aadhaar number at the time of authentication.
In its place, a random and temporary 16-digit Virtual ID number would be generated, which the consumer can use in place of Aadhaar with authorised telecom service providers. “From June 2, 2018, it will be compulsory for all agencies, which undertake authentication, to accept the virtual IDs from their users,” reports the Press Trust of India.
Whether the introduction of a facial recognition system is a significant breakthrough or, yet another tool of mass surveillance depends on where one stands in the debate.
China has already introduced the system of facial recognition as a tool of state surveillance over citizens. Does India seek to venture along the same path? Given how ubiquitous Aadhaar has become in our lives, and how state agencies are miserably failing to protect the personal data of their citizens, these debates are incredibly important.