Face recognition to be must for all Aadhaar authentications

NEW DELHI, August 24: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has announced a new measure that seeks to mandate facial recognition – by taking on-the-spot live pictures — for every authentication that requires Aadhaar. Services that most commonly use Aadhaar authentication include issue of mobile SIM (new or replacement), banks, public distribution system and office attendance at government offices.
The facial recognition will come in as an additional feature along with the regular authentication process that identifies an individual based on fingerprints or iris (eye) scans.
The measure is being implemented following ‘official circulars’ sent by UIDAI (on June 19 and August 17) to Authentication User Agencies (AUAs), Authentication Service Agencies (ASAs), and certified biometric device providers.
Failure to follow the process will be treated as a criminal offence by authentication agencies, punishable with imprisonment and fine under Section 42 and 43 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, sources said.
UIDAI confirmed the move and said that the measure is being used to provide an added security layer, while also making the Aadhaar process ‘more inclusive’. “There have been numerous instances where people have been excluded from Aadhaar authentication as their fingerprints are worn out due to old age, or since they are involved in manual labour or agriculture. The use of facial recognition will help include such people in the Aadhaar authentication process,” UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey told TOI.
Pandey said the new authentication process would be rolled out “in a phased manner”, and would initially be mandated for providers of SIM cards of telecom companies. Telecom operators have been directed that with effect from September 15 of this year, at least 10 per cent of their total monthly authentication transactions should be performed using facial recognition. Any shortfall in transactions using face authentication would face a penalty, at 20 paise per transaction.
“Face authentication is the latest technology, and provides added security. After we hit 10 per cent of authentication transactions, we will have a review of any possible shortfalls that we notice in the system or processes. Thereafter, we will expand, within telecom and also to other service areas where separate instructions shall be issued regarding implementation of face recognition,” the UIDAI CEO said.
Explaining how the new system would work, he said that whenever an individual would seek authentication based on Aadhaar, the authorised machine/device being used for the purpose would also capture a picture of the face of the individual.
The photo, along with the fingerprint or iris scan, would be sent to UIDAI, which will verify the details on its database, and thereafter send a confirmation of the authenticity of the individual (based on facial and fingerprint/iris confirmations). “Since face photo is already available in UIDAI database, there is no need to capture any new reference data,” the June circular of UIDAI said, adding that “camera is pervasively available on laptops and mobiles, making the face capture feasible for AUAs without requiring additional hardware.” The original UIDAI circular on the matter was issued on January 15 this year and had sought the integration of facial recognition from July 1. Thereafter, the same was extended to August 1, after which it was decided to go for a phased rollout “due to non-readiness of few device providers” to give machines that have face recognition technology.
Pandey said that the authentication process at the end of UIDAI is very sophisticated and will not be impacted by changes to a person’s face. “Even if someone grows a beard, there will not be any issue in identifying his face with the picture that was originally submitted with us. We have sophisticated mechanisms. The whole idea is to provide convenience and additional security to the users,” the UIDAI CEO said.
The measure comes at a time when the Supreme Court is yet to decide whether the use of Aadhaar can be made mandatory for services such as mobile SIM cards, banks, insurance policies. Objections have been raised on the mandatory usage of Aadhaar by certain sections of society and privacy advocates, prompting the top court to make it voluntary till it takes a final decision on the matter. (TNN)