On UIDAI’s “Launch” of Facial Authentication and Giving More “Choice” for Aadhaar Authentication

In a report published today on ETtech, the headline reads, “UIDAI launches facial authentication to give more ‘choice’ for Aadhar Authentication“.

First of all, Aadhaar is misspelled as ‘Aadhar’ in the headline itself.

According to the report:

In order to provide more choice to citizens authenticating using Aadhaar, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has introduced face authentication along with fingerprints and iris.

This measure will be used in “Fusion” along with existing modes of authentication such as fingerprints, iris and OTP (one-time-password). Implemented by July of this year, facial authentication is also expected to increase security by adding another layer of verification.

There’s a couple of issues I have with this report:

— First, not only do we have no details about UIDAI’s proposed facial authentication system, it will only be “Implemented by July of year”. For ETtech to blindly claim that “UIDAI launches facial authentication” is beyond stupid.

— Second, according to the second paragraph quoted above, the new facial authentication measure will work in “Fusion” with the three existing modes, i.e. fingerprints, iris, and OTP. ETtech quotes the UIDAI notification saying that face authentication will provide “additional choice” for those having difficulty with their fingerprints/iris authentication. If the facial authentication measure is going to work in fusion with existing methods, that’s hardly a “choice” for citizens. It’ll rather work as a fallback mechanism, in case the first level of authentication isn’t fully successful or as an additional factor of authentication. Nothing in the UIDAI notification, or this report, says that facial authentication will be offered as a ‘choice’ — as a primary method of authentication.

Then again, UIDAI began collection of user biometrics as early as 2009. People’s facial features surely change over time, don’t they?