DigiYatra enrollment process and FRT back in question again

DigiYatra enrollment process and FRT back in question again. File Photo
| Photo Credit: S_SIVA SARAVANAN

A Vistara passenger on Friday bumped into the DigiYatra enrollment process unknowingly and unwillingly at boarding gate of Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad. When he enquired about it on X, the airlines confirmed that the cameras placed at boarding gates are for the DigiYatra process and apply to all customers.

DigitYatra is a paperless facial recognition technology (FRT), used for flyer verification (even foreigners) at Indian airports that is designed to facilitate seamless access to the terminal and boarding.

Managed by DigiYatra Foundation, it is still not mandatory to do so but flyers often tricked into it unknowingly. Currently, the DigiYatra facility is available across 14 Indian airports.

The Vistara flyer further asked if photos of all passengers are being taken regardless of them opting for Digiyatra. To which, the airlines replied, “As checked with the airport team we wish to confirm that pictures of all the customers are taken.”

As per Civil Aviation Ministry’s guidelines for DigiYatra, at the time of consent collection, DigiYatra ecosystem will strictly inform and take consent from the user for the sharing of face biometric data for the airport checkpoints. It will be completely voluntary, users will also have an option, at any time, to opt-out and delete their profile.

In March 2024, DigiYatra revamped its app and asked users to delete the old and install the new version. However, since its inception in December 2022, the app has been under anonymity of how, where and who controls the data and its privacy.

Several digital rights groups like the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) have voiced concerns about the misuse of DigiYatra and FRT as they directly affect right to privacy.

IFF wrote, “Indian public authorities and police forces used (and abused) facial recognition systems, jeorpardising the human rights and data privacy of millions of Indian citizens without much accountability.”

It documents that in May 2024, Tamil Nadu Police’s FRT portal suffered a massive data leak, making 8,00,000 lines of data vulnerable. This included the personal data of policemen and FRT reports on thousands of accused persons. IFF advocates for a total ban on use of FRT by police forces.

Similarly, Telangana Police’s HawkEye app was compromised in June revealing data online.

IFF in March 2024 noted that Indian Railways floated a tender for the installation of FRT-enabled CCTV cameras in train coaches to be used alongside face-matching servers to surveil and identify passengers and ‘curb crime’.

The FRT was also used to intimidate farmers in Haryana where Police said to cancel passports and visas of farmers identified through drone and CCTV cameras “causing disturbances” during the farmers’ protests.

On contrary, Delhi Police claims that FRT has a 2% accuracy rate, points IFF.

The DigiYatra app can be downloaded from Google Play Store and App Store. The registration is done using mobile number, OTP followed by Aadhar number or you can use Digi Locker.

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