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COVID vaccination drive: Face authentication and not facial recognition to be used, says Nandan Nilekani

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The former Unique Identification Authority of India chairman Nandan Nilekani clarified that face-authentication based on Aadhaar will be used for the vaccination drive, not facial recognition as has been reported in certain sections of media.

The former Unique Identification Authority of India chairman Nandan Nilekani clarified that face-authentication based on Aadhaar will be used for the vaccination drive, not facial recognition as has been reported in certain sections of media.
Reports have cited National Health Authority chief RS Sharma stating that facial recognition will be used with Aadhaar to authenticate the identities of people seeking vaccines.
In an interview with The Print, Sharma said that a pilot in Jharkhand is reporting more than 1,000 successful authentications via facial recognition on a daily basis at the vaccination sites.
The Internet Freedom Foundation of India this week released a statement opposing the initiative, highlighting concerns on the use of the technology for access to vaccines and said that it could lead to "potentially life-threatening exclusion."
Nilekani, however, said, that the reports were "not correct."
"What is being used is face authentication, where your photo will be compared when you give your Aadhaar number. It is no different than a fingerprint or Iris or OTP authentication. Facial recognition is scanning a database to look for a person. No such thing is being contemplated," Nilekani said during Microsoft India's ExpertSpeak event on Tuesday.
"It is a way of being inclusive and will help in accelerating vaccination. We should aim for 5-10 million vaccinations a day and therefore transaction time is very important," he added.
Nilekani also welcomed the government's decision to open up vaccination to everyone above 18 years of age from May 1.
"It will be easy to go to 5-10 mn vaccinations a day if the process is streamlined. There will be a lot of points where people will use Aadhaar or any ID, and authenticate themselves," Nilekani said.
"Digital backbone for vaccination is important and what India has developed is truly remarkable. I had laid out a roadmap 9 months ago for scalable digital infrastructure to vaccinate 5-10 mn a day, which is reflected in the latest version of Cowin," Nilekani added.