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    Hotels and Railways Next in Line for Digi Yatra Biometric Check-In System: Key Questions To Consider

    The Digi Yatra check-in system for airports could now be expanded to hotels and tourism to enable the creation of a travel stack, according to a report by The Hindu. Digi Yatra Foundation’s (DYF) CEO Suresh Khadakbhavi informed the publication that the DYF had developed a prototype for this use case and they are deliberating the same with the Ministry of Tourism and other government agencies.

    The Digi Yatra is a paperless “biometric boarding system” that uses Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) for verification at Indian airports. It is managed and operated by the Digi Yatra Foundation. 

    Khadakbhavi also informed that the facility could be implemented for rail travel, and the same is being discussed with the Ministry of Railways. According to him, the facility will ease the verification of travelers’ documents, including those of foreign nationals, by the police and prevent data leakage. Regarding the ongoing data Digi Yatra controversy over data privacy and user consent issues, the CEO stated that DYF will release a revised policy document addressing the concerns.

    Key considerations before expanding the role of a controversial FRT-based technology:

    Since its implementation, the Digi Yatra project has received criticism due to ambiguities about user data collection, storage location of such data, and the parties that have access to passenger data. From uninformed registrations to alleged non-consensual collection of pictures, Digi Yatra has only resulted in confusion among travelers at several Indian airports.

    Recently, Digi Yatra Foundation switched to a new app forcing passengers at airports to delete the old app and download a new one because of system upgrades. Since then, the company has been facing serious allegations regarding user surveillance, risking the security of over 4.5 million passengers’ data. A recent investigation by a technologist, published on X, has revealed several operational ambiguities within the Digi Yatra ecosystem, raising questions about data access and control over registered users’ information. Read MediaNama’s detailed explainer on the allegations and all unanswered questions here.

    Due to the unresolved concerns, extending the facility to hotels and railways raises significant questions. If the Digi Yatra ecosystem enables the verification of travelers, does it mean law enforcement agencies will have direct access to all travelers’ identification documents and their travel information? Secondly, how do we ensure that the on-paper voluntary system is not pushed upon users in private hotels and railway stations by agents?

    Like Khadakbhavi, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) stated that there is no central storage of a passenger’s Personally Identifiable Information (PII) data and that such data is purged with the airport system after 24 hours of the flight departure. Can the ministry provide any kind of evidence to help us verify this information?

    Finally, the Digi Yatra Foundation website also states that users’ personal data may be shared with DYF employees, agents, and even third parties that provide services to DYF. This further raises questions about how exactly user data is being processed and shared if it is not stored somewhere internally.

    Also Read:

    The post Hotels and Railways Next in Line for Digi Yatra Biometric Check-In System: Key Questions To Consider appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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