The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has announced that it will introduce facial recognition into Aadhar authentication from July 1, 2018. The stated reason for this measure is the verification problems faced by senior citizens or those whose fingerprints are unsuitable for the existing technology.
So how does this work? According to UIDAI, “at the time of Aadhaar enrolment, photo of the face of resident is also captured. To provide inclusive authentication, face photo can also be leveraged to verify the identity of an Aadhaar number holder”. It further says the face authentication will provide an “additional choice” for those having difficulty with their fingerprints/iris authentication.
So facial recognition does not mean another trip to your local enrolment centre. The UIDAI will use the data in its existing database to introduce this feature. As a safeguard, facial authentication will have to be supplemented by at least one other biometric feature (eg: fingerprint, iris or OTP) to establish identity.
What about privacy?
The announcement adds to existing privacy concerns with Aadhar especially in light of the recent Tribune expose showing how access to the database can be bought illegally for a mere Rs 500. In response, the UIDAI introduced additional features to Aadhar including a virtual ID that can act as a substitute for giving the number itself and limited KYC for agencies who only need a few details for their services.
However, the constitutionality of linking Aadhar to various kinds of personal data and making it compulsory for various services is under challenge in the Supreme Court of India. The new feature is likely to be examined as part of the ongoing arguments in the case.