New Delhi: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on Monday moved to enable facial recognition as an additional means of Aadhaar authentication. It is to be used only in combination with existing options of biometric authentication such as fingerprint or iris scan.
The facial recognition will be made available on registered devices from 1 July.
The move is aimed at improving inclusion, particularly in ensuring that genuine beneficiaries are not denied benefits under various welfare programmes as their biometrics(fingerprints) no longer match with what is recorded on the central database of UIDAI.
“This facility is going to help in inclusive authentication of those who are not able to biometrically authenticate due to their worn out fingerprints, old age or hard work conditions," a statement from UIDAI on Monday said.
Arguing similarly, former UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani tweeted, “Authentication via facial photo matching builds on the principle of inclusion and delivers on the promise of evolving with the times!"
The facility will be available along with other existing means of authentication—fingerprint, iris or one-time password (OTP)—on devices registered with the UIDAI.
At present, a person has the option to give his/her biometrics—either fingerprint or iris, along with their 12-digit identity number—during authentication or e-KYC (know your customer) for accessing various benefits and services from service providers such as banks or telecom firms. Facial recognition will now serve as an “additional option" for the users.
To facilitate this authentication service, UIDAI will work with biometric device providers to integrate face modality into the certified registered devices, it said.
UIDAI will be releasing necessary details for implementation of the facility by 1 March. The Authentication User Agencies (AUAs)—entities engaged in providing Aadhaar-enabled services—have been instructed to make necessary changes in their servers to process the encrypted authentication input.
“Since face photo is already available in UIDAI database there is no need to capture any new reference data at UIDAI Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR). Camera is now pervasively available on laptops and mobiles, making the face capture easily feasible for AUAs without needing any additional hardware," the UIDAI statement added.
An AUA may be a government, public or a private legal agency registered in India which uses Aadhaar authentication services provided by UIDAI.
To be sure, no changes in the Aadhaar Act will be needed to facilitate this form of authentication as it recognizes photograph, fingerprint, iris scan, or other biological attributes of an individual as “biometric information."
The new method will also be allowed “on need basis". The decision comes within less than a week of UIDAI putting in place a two-layer security to reinforce privacy protection for Aadhaar ID number holders.
UIDAI also proposes to use so-called liveness detection along with face authentication to ensure increased security.
This step will help in eliminating fraudulent cases associated with facial recognition, said Rahul Matthan, partner at law firm Trilegal and a Mint columnist.
“Liveness is the ability to check whether it is a photograph before the camera or an actual human being. The software or the scanner needed to detect has to be more sophisticated," he said.
Last Wednesday, UIDAI introduced a virtual identification for the ID holders so that the actual number need not be shared to authenticate their identity. Simultaneously, it further regulated the storage of the Aadhaar number within various databases.
Accordingly, from 1 March, users will have the option of generating a 16-digit virtual identity mapped to their Aadhaar number that can be shared with telecom companies and others at the time of authenticating their identity. From 1 June, it will be compulsory for all agencies, which undertake authentication, to accept the virtual IDs from their users.
Aadhaar is mandatory for availing various welfare programmes as well as linking it with bank accounts, permanent account number (PAN) and mobile phone SIM cards. A constitution bench comprising of five judges is likely to hear the issue of a stay sought on mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts, mobile phone numbers, etc., from Wednesday.
There are more than 1.19 billion Aadhaar number holders in the country.