Facial Recognition Technology


    In News

    • Recently, Minister of State for Civil Aviation said four airports in the country will soon have facial recognition technology (FRT)-based boarding system for passengers. 


    • The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is working on a biometric boarding system at the Varanasi, Pune, Kolkata and Vijayawada airports.
    • This biometric boarding system is part of the first phase of Digi Yatra scheme’s implementation.

    What is the Digi Yatra scheme?

    • About: 
      • It seeks to promote paperless air travel and a seamless journey from entering an airport till boarding a plane.
      • It is to be scaled up in a phased manner for adoption across various airports of the country.
    • Ministry: 
      • The Ministry of Civil Aviation has released the Policy on biometric based digital processing of passengers at Airports called “Digi Yatra”.
    • Privacy issue: 
      • On safety of the information provided, the Government stated that registering for the Digi Yatra Central Ecosystem is optional to the passenger.
      • If for a particular journey, the passenger does not want to avail the Digi Yatra services then the passenger has an option to not send the data and use the existing manual process at airports.
    • Audits: 
      • There will be periodic audits by governing/regulatory bodies twice every year. 
    • ISO standards: 
      • Facial recognition is as per Industry ISO standards with best in class National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) listed algorithms complying to Data Privacy and Data protection requirement as laid down by the Government.
    • Data retention: 
      • The data shared by passengers is to be retained during the transit of the passenger at the airport and will not be retained for more than 24 hours after Take-off/departure of the flight.


    Image Courtesy: One India 

    Facial Recognition Technology

    • Meaning: 
      • Facial recognition is a way of identifying or confirming an individual’s identity using their face. 
      • Facial recognition systems can be used to identify people in photos, videos, or in real-time.
      • Facial recognition is a category of biometric security. 
      • Other forms of biometric software include voice recognition, fingerprint recognition, and eye retina or iris recognition. 
      • The technology is mostly used for security and law enforcement, though there is increasing interest in other areas of use.
    • Works on: 
      • The technology can work in real-time as well and relies on advanced machine learning algorithms powered by deep neural networks to identify faces and map them to an existing database.
    • Example: 
      • For example, in Google Photos or even Apple Photos, the app will try and bucket photos of a person and ask users to identify the face. 
    • Facebook: 
      • On Facebook too, it was possible to turn on the feature and have the service automatically identify oneself if they were part of any photos or videos uploaded by friends or family. 
    • Taken to large scale: 
      • But companies such as Amazon, Microsoft have made it possible to use the technology at a much bigger scale and to analyse more than just images from your phone’s library. 
      • The technology is also outsourced to governments and law enforcement agencies, which has sparked concerns on its use.
    • Used by officials: 
      • Police enforcement groups prefer Rekognition because it can track and analyse people in real time and even identify up to 100 people in one single image
      • But the technology is not exactly accurate as it has been shown in the past by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
    • Used by the Countries:
      • In China, the government has used the technology to track Uighurs, the Muslim minority in the country. 
      • It was also used in the UK to monitor football fans arriving for a match in 2020.
      •  In India too there have been concerns over the use of facial recognition technology by police, especially during protests.


    • As the technology gets faster and more accurate there are worries that it will be used for mass surveillance.
    • Amazon’s Rekognition tool was criticised in the past for its accuracy, especially when identifying people of colour, and African-Americans in particular. The use of the technology by law enforcement could lead to wrongful arrests and more discrimination, according to experts. 
    • Absence of federal laws are also a hindrance in Governments getting a high end tool.
    • India’s recently adopted Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB), 2019, falls short of the standards set by the Justice Srikrishna Committee. The Bill fails to build a legal structure on the landmark Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India judgment on the right of privacy. 

     Source: TH