UIDAI mandates facial recognition for Aadhaar authentication as added security

Any service provider using Aadhaar for identification, will have to mandatorily use facial recognition.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is scheduled to roll out a new facial recognition system on 15 September, as an additional mode of authentication. And now, the authority has mandated the facial recognition features for every authentication that requires Aadhaar.

According to a report by Times of India, services like buying a new mobile SIM, authentication at banks or public distribution system, will all require on-the-spot live pictures for Aadhaar authentication.

Representational image.

Representational image. Image: tech2

Essentially, when an individual would seek authentication based on Aadhaar, along with the existing process, a picture of the face of the person will also be taken. All of these details will then be sent to UIDAI, which will then run the information through its database and then confirm the authenticity of the individual. The UIDAI database already contains the photograph of the individual along with other biometric information. The photo taken on the spot will be verified against the photo in the database to authenticate the identity of the user.

When implemented, this will become an additional layer of security to confirm user identity. As of now, for the mentioned services, you are required to provide your Aadhaar number, along with a fingerprint or iris biometric scan.

UIDAI says the move is aimed at curbing the possibility of fingerprint spoofing or cloning and seeks to tighten the audit process and security around issuance and activation of mobile SIMs. Back in June this year, a Hyderabad-based mobile SIM card distributor had forged Aadhaar details for activating thousands of SIMs.

Village women stand in a queue to get themselves enrolled for UID database system.

Village women stand in a queue to get themselves enrolled for UID database system.

Having said that, this also raises the question of resources available to implement the mandated facial recognition feature. The authority says that since the cameras are available on most laptops and mobiles, Authentication User Agencies wouldn’t require any additional hardware. UIDAI has also stated that changes to the face due to make-up, different hairstyles, growing/shaving beards and other normal changes should not have any impact on facial recognition as the systems processing the authentication will be sophisticated enough to handle it.

The authority has reportedly passed an official circular to all Authentication User Agencies, Authentication Service Agencies, and certified biometric device providers. The process is charted to go live by 15 September.

Further, for anyone who tries to bypass the measure, it will be treated as a criminal offence, punishable with imprisonment and fine. The fines will be applied under Section 42 and 43 of the Aadhaar Act 2016, according to sources.

Speaking to TOI, UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey said that facial recognition will provide an added layer of security. "After we hit 10 per cent of authentication transactions, we will have a review of any possible shortfalls in the systems or processes. Thereafter, we will expand, within telecom and also to other service areas," said Pandey.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court concluded the Aadhaar related hearings, the second longest hearing in Indian history. You can read our complete coverage of the day by day hearing here.

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