India

Facial recognition at airports: Government launches Digi Yatra

The government will come out with a centralised registration system for passengers, where the travellers will need to generate a Digi Yatra ID by sharing details including name, e-mail ID, mobile number and one ID proof.

Ministry of Civil Aviation Thursday announced the Digi Yatra initiative under which passengers will be able to enter airports using facial recognition. This scheme will begin piloting at Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports from February 2019 and Airports Authority of India will initially roll it out at Kolkata, Varanasi, Pune and Vijayawada airports by April 2019.

The government will come out with a centralised registration system for passengers, where the travellers will need to generate a Digi Yatra ID by sharing details including name, e-mail ID, mobile number and one ID proof. The Digi Yatra ID will be shared by passengers while booking the ticket with the airline, which will share the passenger data and the Digi Yatra ID with the departure airport. A passenger who has created a Digi Yatra ID will need to undergo a one-time verification at the departure airport where the facial biometric will be captured and stored in the passenger’s profile.

A registered passenger can go to the e-gate of the airport and scan the barcode/ QR code of the ticket. The system will also generate a token combining the face of a passenger with PNR of the ticket so that at subsequent checkpoints the ticket details would be available on face recognition. Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey said e-gates will replace “all human interface points except at the point of security check. The physical security check will remain.” Passengers will not have to pay for this facility, he said, adding that the ministry plans to roll out Digi Yatra at all airports in a phased manner.

A not-for-profit company would be set up with the AAI and private airport operators as stakeholders. The enrolment for Digi Yatra would be done by this company. The portal is also expected to be operational by end of February 2019. To have a legal backing for the project, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has put out a draft civil aviation requirement.

Responding to a query on whether the system would infringe the privacy of individuals, Minister of Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu said: “No way there is going to be an intrusion of privacy… This (Digi Yatra) is purely voluntary”.

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