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India’s central government introduces face biometric liveness checks for pensioners

India’s central government introduces face biometric liveness checks for pensioners

Undeterred by objections to a similar digital ID program in a rural Indian state, that nation’s central government is praising its own face biometric liveness check for pensioners.

According to the Deccan Herald, India’s central government has launched an annual program through which retired and elderly citizens can prove they are alive and can legally collect government benefits with face biometric authentication.

Such digital liveness certificate programs are sold as a way to make life easier for recipients, who otherwise would have to travel sometimes long distances to renew benefits annually. They also are efficient methods for reducing fraud and corruption.

The central government has many digital ID projects despite facing headwinds itself, including a health-record program that has generated controversy and a test of mobile voting.

The rural state of Meghalaya is locked in an argument with privacy advocates objecting to the voluntary use of face biometrics to confirm the identity and liveness of elderly recipients of state government benefits.

Advocacy group the Internet Freedom Foundation has charged the government is not properly protecting the privacy rights of those using the certificate. There is no evidence that the state is or will “follow the principles of lawfulness, fairness, and transparency,” according to the group.

The foundation also says there is no evident plan for data minimization or limits on purpose, collection, storage and retention.

The central government’s Pension and Pensioner’ Welfare Department rolled out its liveness app on Google’s Play store with plans to put it on Apple’s App Store as well, according to reporting by publisher MediaNama.

The central government sends qualified digital IDs to qualified residents and to a bank, in case of its retired employees. There are 6.8 million federal government pensioners in India, as well private employees under the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (sic) and state government employees covered by the pension system.

State government pensioners in the program get their benefits via their state treasury, which gets a copy of the certificate.

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