The government plans to introduce facial recognition technology for entry level at domestic airports with the aim of reducing the time and hassle involved in completing the many pre-flight checks.
Passengers will have to ‘opt on’ to the service, i.e. you will have to actively register yourself on an online portal that then allows you to enter an airport, go through security and board the flight without showing your boarding pass or a physical identity proof.
The service, which is part of the government’s ‘Digi Yatra’ programme, will be free of cost. “Digi Yatra is a forward-looking, technology-driven, futuristic experience. It will eliminate multiple stamping of boarding passes and several scrutinies will be eliminated,” Union Minister for Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu told media persons.
“We are leap-frogging into the future through Digi Yatra. It is a completely voluntary system for those who want seamless digital experience,” said MoS Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha.
Responding to concerns over passenger privacy, the Civil Aviation Ministry said that the facial recognition system has been tested to ensure that passenger privacy is protected. Jayant Sinha also said that all data related to a passenger’s travel will be purged after their flights.
“We have followed the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union. All travel through an airport will be purged after travel. Privacy protection has been designed into this programme,” Jayant Sinha said.
However, Ministry of Civil Aviation secretary Rajiv Choubey suggested that some data may remain in the system. Choubey said that over a period of time, data from the system could be used to do a risk-based assessment of a passenger in order to — one day in the future — do away with the need of that passenger being security screened in the first place.
This idea — of hypothetically doing away with security screenings for some passengers based on data gathered by the new system — is however in its infancy.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation will roll out Digi Yatra next year. “Bangalore and Hyderabad International Airports will be ready with pilot implementation by end of February 2019,”. The Hyderabad and Bengaluru airports will be the first ones to implement the system in February. The Kolkata, Pune, Vijayawada and Varanasi airports will follow suit in April.