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Digi Yatra app users face glitches, data privacy concerns

Digi Yatra app users face glitches, data privacy concerns

Travelers at Kolkata Airport are struggling to upload their boarding passes into the Digi Yatra app, which is intended to use biometrics to expedite boarding while enhancing security, according to Times of India. The streamlined process is only available after a boarding pass is uploaded.

Out of the roughly 12,000 passengers who enter the airport using Digi Yatra channels, over 3,000 use the app, while the rest log into the system through kiosks on site. Those who use the app, who also tend to be frequent flyers, are affected most by technical issues.

The repeated outages of the Digi Yatra app were due to scheduled backend upgrades that will take place from March 26 to 31, according to an official at Kolkata airport. Fliers with app troubles were instructed to uninstall and reinstall the app, but some also said they had problems downloading it.

Fifty-two percent of passengers at the airport were using Digi Yatra, half of which were using the app, while the others used kiosks at the entrance.

The Digi Yatra Foundation, which operates the app, has a shareholders’ consortium that includes the Airports Authority of India, which owns 26 percent of shares, and five private airport operators that own the remaining 74 percent.

It is currently implemented at 13 Indian airports, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation has plans to roll it out to all airports, according to Apar Gupta, who voices data privacy concerns in an article on Deccan Herald.

The ministry claims the system is voluntary, but a survey of 10,892 respondents revealed that only 15 percent knowingly signed up, while 29 percent enrolled without full understanding, and 15 percent believed they had no other option but to sign up.

The mandatory-in-practice nature of the initiative reflects that of Aadhaar, Gupta says, though Digi Yatra is privately owned. The company skirts the kind of accountability a public entity would face and is not subject to transparency requirements under the Right to Information Act or audits by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

The app is free for travelers to use, instead making money by selling users’ data such as identity and travel history to private vendors. This will also likely be true for future Digi Yatra identity verification projects that may take place in hotels or public spaces.

The initiative is “essentially laying the groundwork for a mass surveillance system in urban areas,” says Gupta. “It matches the ambitions of turning Indian cities into data extractive environments, as per the smart city programme, which envisions integrating civic and policing services based on facial recognition technologies that feed integrated command and control centers.”

The Digi Yatra Foundation says in a popup message on its website that people struggling to use the app are likely “using an outdated version.”

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