Hyderabad: Ignoring the lessons of privacy infringement that arose in the Aadhaar case, the Civil Aviation Ministry wants to create the Digiyatra profiling system through ‘Digiyatra ID’ for flyers from Hyderabad and Bengaluru by February 2019.
The voluntary ‘Digiyatra’ electronic identification uses electronic facial recognition to promise a flying experience that is seamless and secure. Facial recognition is not supposed to be as unreliable as fingerprinting.
However, in the opinion of experts, without a data protection law in place, such data collection voluntary or compulsory cannot be done. Moreover, the infrastructure related to facial recognition is not so advanced in this country.
Kiran Chandra, general secretary of Free Software Movement of India, points out the flaws in this idea: “There would be cases of complete identity theft if facial recognition is integrated with ticketing. And let’s not forget that the right to privacy is a fundamental right. An airport is a public service to citizens; on what basis is the government collecting data? Instead of enhancing security, government is providing the biometric data to airlines which are private agencies. It is creating more projects for private parties and is evidently creating insecure environment for citizens.”
Facial recognition needs high-end computing systems with 24X7 networks for authentication. “When there are already existing issues with barcode readers, this is a lame argument that Digiyatra ID is going to enhance security,” he says.
He added that instead of solving existing problems, facial recognition is adding a different layer of complexity as it takes iris, facial and other scans.
“The infrastructure is not high-end in this country and there could be chances of leakages. Through this process, the face is recorded by the camera from various angles which will capture expressions as well to ensure that it can differentiate even between identical twins. However, the draft Data Protection Bill sets restrictions on photos and facial recognition like biometric features,” Mr Chandra points out.
Srinivas Kodali, an independent security researcher, says even if it is up to passengers to give data or not, a law needs to be in place first.
“This is nothing but extensive data surveillance for flyers,” he says. “Usually such activities are done on contract basis and you cannot be in a contract with the government alone because there is the private airport, private software provider and the government. It may ease check-ins but what is stopping the parties involved from taking the data of citizens. There must be a law.”