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Indian govt using face biometrics at COVID vaccination centers

Indian govt using face biometrics at COVID vaccination centers

India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has admitted to using face biometrics technology for online verification of people attending health centers for COVID-19 vaccinations without a legislative or legal order to authorize its use, reports The Hindu. Groups are concerned this could be the beginning of a requirement to have an Aadhaar biometric ID card in order to receive a vaccination.

Responding to a right to information (RTI) request from not-for-profit Internet Freedom Foundation, the MoHFW also admitted to failing to carry out a privacy impact assessment for the use of facial recognition.

The ministry said that it had been using the facial recognition element of India’s Aadhaar biometric identity system.

The Internet Freedom Foundation raises a series of concerns. Aside from the legal issues, it understands the facial recognition technology used to be inaccurate and that the verification would be handled according to the terms of the third party CoWin portal, but these terms were not available anywhere publicly.

“The COVID-19 vaccines are essential, life-saving commodities in the current pandemic and ensuring equitable & indiscriminate access to the vaccines for all is of paramount importance,” states the Internet Freedom Foundation.

“However, deploying Aadhaar-based [facial recognition technology] for the verification process, deprives the citizens who do not possess or have not linked their Aadhaar cards to the CoWin portal or the on-site register, of the vital vaccines.”

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