Though the government’s DigiYatra initiative was facilitating paperless travel via face recognition technology at airports, it has now raised data privacy concerns among flyers. Addressing these concerns, aviation minister Jayant Sinha, on January 21, said that the information is deleted as soon as the trip is over.
In response to some tweets, which have highlighted the concerns of data privacy and government’s plans of surveillance, Sinha said that the DigiYatra system is fully compliant with the norms laid out under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). “All your flight information is purged as soon as the trip is over and no travel records are maintained,” he replied to Krishna Pratap Singh on Twitter.
Earlier during the day, Sinha had praised the DigiYatra initiative and said that India is the first country in the world to have a national digital traveller system. Sharing photographs of him standing next to the DigiYatra infrastructure at the Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru, on Twitter, Sinha said that all the airports will have this face recognition soon.
Launched in December 2018 by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, DigiYatra has simplified passengers’ entry at airports by automatically processing authentication based on facial recognition systems at all checkpoints, including airport entry, entry into security checks, and aircraft boarding.
In September 2019, Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport had also started a three-month trial of a biometric facial recognition entry system for domestic passengers of Vistara Airlines at Terminal 3. In December 2019, the government has highlighted that the facial recognition project has so far registered 2,605 passengers at Delhi Airport since its launch.
Other airports, which have been included in the first phase of the DigiYatra initiative include Kolkata, Pune, Vijayawada, Varanasi, Hyderabad, Cochin, and Mumbai.
How DigiYatra Works?
The enrolment process for passengers with valid flight tickets and government ID proofs will start at the registration kiosk. After this, their facial details will be captured by a camera. Simultaneously, the documents provided by the passenger are further validated by a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel present at the kiosk.
At the time of facial data registration, DigiYatra Platform takes consent from the user for sharing of face data for the airport checkpoint clearance only. Additionally, another consent is taken from passengers for opting for any value-added services that the passenger may wish to avail from the Digi Yatra ecosystem partners.