Indian authorities are adding support for facial recognition to the country’s biometric national ID system, Aadhaar.
The move was announced via a circular authored by Yashwant Kumar, the Assistant Director General of the Unique Identification Authority of India. Its aim is to further support biometric authentication through Aadhaar, which so far has only allowed for biometric authentication via fingerprint or iris recognition. Noting that photos of citizens’ faces have also been collected for their profiles in the Aadhaar database, Kumar points out that the system inherently allows for facial recognition using common consumer electronic devices, asserting that cameras able to capture users faces are now “pervasively available”.
There is a catch: the UIDAI is only enabling Face Authentication in “fusion mode” – that is, in combination with either a fingerprint or iris scan. It’s a curious condition, given Kumar’s suggestion that the new support for facial recognition is meant to address the issue that “some residents face difficulty in successfully using biometric authentication using one of the [currently supported] modalities,” that is, fingerprint or iris recognition. In other words, the UIDAI is adding facial recognition because sometimes citizens aren’t able to authenticate with either fingerprint or iris recognition – but facial recognition will only be supported in combination with one of those modalities.
The real motivation for enabling Face Authentication may lie in improving Aadhaar’s overall security in the wake of multiple security scandals. By adding support for multimodal authentication, authorities may be better able to fight potential fraud threats. But it isn’t clear why this wouldn’t be the stated aim of the move to begin with.
In any case, Kumar says Face Authentication will be supported on a “need basis,” and that it will release “necessary details for implementation” by March 1st, with the aim of getting support for the feature live by July 1st.
January 16, 2018 – by Alex Perala