In a bid to make the process go contactless, India’s Covid-19 vaccination efforts are seemingly set to add Aadhaar based facial recognition. According to a report by The Print, citing an interview with National Health Authority head R.S. Sharma, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has already run a pilot project to test its facial recognition algorithms based on a database of facial data obtained from the Aadhaar database.
The ex-mission director of UIDAI further called the pilot “successful”, before stating that the process will be key to making the entire Indian Covid-19 vaccination drive “contactless”.
How face recognition would work?
The Covid-19 vaccination drive presently requires biometric authentication based on fingerprints or retinal scans. All the eligible citizens will be required to register for the Covid-19 vaccination setup via the Co-WIN portal on the Aarogya Setu app.
Users can then link their mobile numbers and use Aadhaar numbers as the identification document of choice. Once at the vaccination booth, users who have chosen to authenticate their identity by using Aadhaar will have themselves automatically verified, by using the facial recognition at vaccination booths.
How is it useful?
Facial recognition in the Covid-19 vaccination drive would help in cutting contact points between individuals in this whole circuit. Direct, personal contact has been the biggest reason for the spreading of Covid-19 across the world, and the use of facial recognition by cameras placed at a distance do away the need for registering citizens to touch the same fingerprint authenticator, one after the other.
The central government will also issue Indian citizens a digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate, which will be in line with the international Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standard. The latter is an international benchmark of sorts for homologating healthcare documents and make them easier for accessing anywhere in the world. Given that this digital certificate will be linked to an individual’s personal identification, the general argument states that using data that is already with the government in the UIDAI Aadhaar database cannot do any harm. Instead, it would only make the process simpler and more streamlined, and may even speed up the vaccination drive for individuals.
What are prime concerns around data security?
After the NHA announced the facial recognition pilot project in Jharkhand’s Covid-19 vaccination centres, many individuals questioned the need to bring in facial surveillance, Moreover, many users called for adopting steps to “decentralise” the vaccination process, while others called for data security credentials to be established before vital data should be collected.
To address this concern, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, had stated that individuals will not be required to furnish or link their Aadhaar details to get a shot of the vaccine administered.
However, now it is to be seen how the central government is planning to address such concerns around data security, public surveillance and the effectiveness of such technological infrastructure in the vaccine drive across the country.