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Air travellers allegedly having biometrics enrolled in Digi Yatra without consent

Air travellers allegedly having biometrics enrolled in Digi Yatra without consent

Some security personnel and private staff at airports in India have been capturing air travelers’ face biometrics to enroll them in the Digi Yatra program without first getting their consent, The Hindu reports.

Digi Yatra is supposed to be a voluntary program for faster clearance at various airport checkpoints, utilizing biometrics instead of passports.

A passenger at Delhi airport, Tavish Pattanayak, recounted security personnel checked the documents of  people in the same line as him on Christmas Eve, and then asked them to look at a screen for their photo to be taken. Pattanayak read the small print on the screen as photos of the family ahead of him in line were taken, and discovered that a security officer was clicking a button to register their consent for enrollment into Digi Yatra without asking them, or informing them what the process was for.

Having discovered the Digi Yatra registration, he tells The Hindu that he clicked “no” when it was his turn. Pattanayak said he declined out of fear for the safety of his data, citing weak privacy laws. He said that most people, however, cooperated without question. The publication also shared similar accounts from several other travelers at Delhi and Kolkata airports.

India’s parliament passed the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill last year, but has yet to implement it. Meanwhile, data breaches from both public and private organizations, along with disputed allegations, have plagued India’s Aadhaar, the largest digital ID program in the world.

The face biometrics used for Digi Yatra are only stored beyond the onboarding process in the digital wallet of the user, according to the foundation that governs the program.

Representatives of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Delhi airport gave The Hindu conflicting accounting of who is responsible for the consent-skipping enrollments.

Digi Yatra Foundation CEO Suresh Khadakbhavi said staff of CISF and airports were each asked to enroll passengers during peak travel season in December.

The program is expected to be live at more than two dozen airports across India by the end of 2024.

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