wordpress blog stats
Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

More than 2 lakh verified with Aadhaar-based facial recognition for vaccination, RTI reveals

Since the pilot has now crossed 60,000 facial authentications, will the government stick to its guns and roll it out across India?

“Right now, the beneficiaries at the vaccination centres need to touch fingers at the machine for the biometric authentication. They also need to touch the equipment for iris authentication,” RS Sharma, CEO of the National Health Authority, said in an interview in April revealing details about a ‘touchless’ vaccination pilot being conducted through facial recognition-based Aadhaar authentications in Jharkhand. Now, roughly seven months later, MediaNama has learnt (through an RTI response) that the pilot has carried out over 2.6 lakh such authentications.

“Once we do about 50,000 to 60,000 facial authentications under the pilot, we will roll it out across the country,” Sharma had added in the interview.

Shortly after, multiple civil society groups wrote to the NHA raising concerns that facial recognition technology is not accurate in identifying individuals and that linking such untested technology to vaccination could lead to “potentially life-threatening exclusion.”

The exact number of authentications

In its response, the National Health Authority revealed that 2,66,943 ‘successful’ facial authentications had taken place under the Jharkhand pilot as of October 12, 2021. It is not clear if this figure relates to the number of individuals vaccinated as well.

What was already known

An earlier RTI filed by the Internet Freedom Foundation with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had revealed the following details about the pilot:

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.
  • Data storage and use: Facial recognition is done by authenticating their biometrics against the Aadhaar database. However, the ministry does not store any of this data.
  • Authorised personnel: The Ministry had said that the system needs two people to operate at a vaccination centre – the verifier and the vaccinator.
  • Formal guidelines and standard operating procedure: The guidelines and SOP used for the pilot are included in the ‘Verifier & Vaccinator Module User Manual’ hosted on the CoWIN portal. (However, this has not been made public.
  • Procurement of technology: There was no procurement of new technology before deployment.

 Regulatory concerns raised in a letter to NHA

The letter to the NHA sent by 10 organisations and 158 individuals, said that FRTs are prone to huge error margins and added that, in the past, there have been numerous incidents wherein FRTs deployed for a specific reason have been utilised for purposes beyond their original mandate. The letter particularly flagged:

  • The 2018 incident where the Delhi Police were reportedly using its facial recognition software to identify anti-CAA protestors as opposed to its original purpose of reuniting missing children with their families.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau’s 2020 Request for Proposals for the procurement of the National Automated Facial Recognition System, which did not specify the purpose of procuring the system.

Also read:

Have something to add? Post your comment and gift someone a MediaNama subscription.

Written By

I cover health technology for MediaNama, among other things. Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



Looking at the definition of health data, it is difficult to verify whether health IDs are covered by the Bill.


The accession to the Convention brings many advantages, but it could complicate the Brazilian stance at the BRICS and UN levels.


In light of the state's emerging digital healthcare apparatus, how does Clause 12 alter the consent and purpose limitation model?


The collective implication of leaving out ‘proportionality’ from Clause 12 is to provide very wide discretionary powers to the state.


The latest draft is also problematic for companies or service providers that have nothing to with children's data.

You May Also Like


Google has released a Google Travel Trends Report which states that branded budget hotel search queries grew 179% year over year (YOY) in India, in...


135 job openings in over 60 companies are listed at our free Digital and Mobile Job Board: If you’re looking for a job, or...


Rajesh Kumar* doesn’t have many enemies in life. But, Uber, for which he drives a cab everyday, is starting to look like one, he...


By Aroon Deep and Aditya Chunduru You’re reading it here first: Twitter has complied with government requests to censor 52 tweets that mostly criticised...

MediaNama is the premier source of information and analysis on Technology Policy in India. More about MediaNama, and contact information, here.

© 2008-2021 Mixed Bag Media Pvt. Ltd. Developed By PixelVJ

Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide

© 2008-2021 Mixed Bag Media Pvt. Ltd. Developed By PixelVJ