UIDAI mandates face recognition

The Unique Identification Authority of India 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 issuance of mobile SIM (new or replacement), those in banks, public distribution system and attendance systems 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 19 June and 17 August—to Authentication User Agencies, Authentication Service Agencies, 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 will 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 were 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.

Explaining how the new system would work, Pandey 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 send a confirmation of the authenticity of the individual, based on facial and fingerprint/ iris confirmations.

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