Face and iris biometrics considered to replace fingerprints for Aadhaar authentication of government beneficiaries

Face and iris biometrics considered to replace fingerprints for Aadhaar authentication of government beneficiaries

Fingerprint scans for Aadhaar authentication to access Indian government benefits could soon be replaced by facial recognition and iris biometrics, according to ETtech.

The Aadhaar Enabled Payments System (AePS), which is used to distribute Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) payments and domestic transfers for people under the Jan Dhan financial inclusion initiative, has used fingerprint authentication so far. With COVID-19 hygiene protocols dictating social distancing and avoiding contact with shared surfaces, the National Payments Corp of India (NPCI) and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) are considering activating other biometric modalities included in the Aadhaar system. Failure rates have also been found to be high with fingerprint recognition, largely due to the degradation of the fingerprints of manual laborers, ETtech reports.

The NPCI and UIDAI have begun testing facial recognition authentication with banks ICICI, Yes, RBL and Fino Payments, beginning with non-financial transactions. An email seen by ET suggests that if the testing is successful, authentication with face biometrics will be fully rolled out. One-time passwords are also included to add a second authentication step.

“The failure rate on AePS transactions due to fingerprint mismatches is currently 19-20 percent. Facial recognition will be a more advanced alternative, which is expected to reduce failure rates and take care of sanitisation issues pertaining to Covid,” Ashish Ahuja, COO of Fino Payments Bank told ETtech. “The pilot is currently on with four banks and we will complete the project in the next two weeks.”

Facial recognition can be performed using Aadhaar with mobile devices running Android 7.0 or later, while iris recognition requires specialized hardware. UIDAI is also asking Authentication User Agencies (AUAs) and KYC User Agencies (KUAs) to deploy iris biometric scanners for Aadhaar authentication. The agency said in an internal circular distributed in July that it would attempt to increase the use of iris biometrics as a contactless authentication method, with a potentially higher rate of success than fingerprint authentication.

While UIDAI has attempted to boost the use of face and iris biometrics in the past with limited success due to cost and cultural challenges, COVID-19 protocols could overcome those obstacles.

The Reserve Bank of India says 1.2 billion AePS transactions totalling Rs 5,300 billion (roughly US$71.4 billion) were processed in June.

Aadhaar authentication to ease GST registration

India’s government is also making Aadhaar biometric authentication available to make it easier for businesses to register for goods and services tax (GST) accounts remotely, The Economic Times reports.

Physical verification of GST registrations can take up to 21 business days, a senior official told The Economic Times. GST applications conducted with Aadhaar authentication are expected to be complete within three days.

In addition to facilitating the process for genuine businesses, the use of Aadhaar biometrics could help prevent fraud in the system, the official said. In certain circumstances, officers are empowered to request additional documentation to replace the pre-registration of physical verification for workplaces.

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