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Encrypted, In Your Phone and Erased After 24 Hours, Says Scindia. But How Safe is Your Data on Digi Yatra?

By: Bhaswati Guha Majumder

Edited By: Nitya Thirumalai

News18.com

Last Updated: December 03, 2022, 13:20 IST

New Delhi, India

Passengers line-up for security check to enter the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on December 1, 2022. (Bhaswati Majumder/News18)

Passengers line-up for security check to enter the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on December 1, 2022. (Bhaswati Majumder/News18)

Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia says the Digi Yatra service, which is based on facial recognition technology, uses Blockchain to protect air passengers’ data. Cybersecurity experts, however, say no system is 100% secure

The data of a passenger using the Digi Yatra service is encrypted, will remain in their mobile phones and will be erased within 24 hours of travel, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia told News18, seeking to assure users of data safety in the service that aims to make air travel hassle-free and paperless.

Digi Yatra, which is based on facial recognition technology for air passengers, was launched by Scindia this week for use at Delhi, Bangalore and Varanasi airports. It will be launched at Hyderabad, Pune, Vijayawada and Kolkata by March next year.

“The data is going to be in an encrypted format and is going to be only residing in a passenger’s mobile phone. The minute you upload your data at a particular airport, first of all, it is going to be completely in Blockchain technology. Secondly, 24 hours after your travel, that data is mandatorily going to be purged from the servers. So the data that you have uploaded gets completely erased in 24 hours, even though it is protected by the Blockchain technology,” Scindia told News18.

Explaining the accuracy of the facial recognition technology, the minister said: “When you enter through these doors, not only does your photo gets clicked but also the technology verifies you as the same person. So in case it’s my face but the name comes wrong, the system will automatically show the red flag.”

With Digi Yatra, passenger entry would be automatically processed based on the facial recognition system at all checkpoints, including airport entry, security check areas, aircraft boarding and so on.

During the inauguration at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on December 1, Scindia had said: “In India, for the first time we are using facial recognition technology to make the travel experience for our passengers more seamless and contactless.”

He also talked about other countries like Singapore, Dubai, Japan and US where facial recognition technology is being used, stating that use of this technology has shown tremendous results in terms of easing the experience of the passengers.

He said that, initially, there was a centralized server system which would house the data but then issues of privacy and data theft came up. “So we moved to a decentralized system, which would house the personally identifiable information (PII) on the mobile phone of every single Digi Yatra passenger.”

Threat Assessment

To understand how safe the passengers’ data is under the Digi Yatra system, News18 spoke to Sandip Kumar Panda, Co-Founder and CEO of InstaSafe Technologies. “In the digital world, nothing is 100% safe,” said the cybersecurity expert.

Citing the hacking of crypto coin exchanges, Panda said data leak is a possibility in case sufficient security measures are not implemented. He went on to explain that storing data using Blockchain technology ensures data traceability.

“However, a Blockchain could be taken over by an attacker or group of attackers if they hold the majority of its hashrate or computational power. Keeping this in mind, it cannot be said that Blockchain technology can ensure 100% data safety,” he highlighted.

Keeping Up With the Hackers

It is a fact that with every counter-measure, cybercriminals are also advancing their playbook. InstaSafe’s Panda said that like most things, if sufficient cybersecurity measures are not in place for applications, apps can be hacked as seen for various crypto applications.

“Since the initiation of this app was proposed by the Government of India, there has been huge criticism around it because of the absence of data protection law,” he added.

“Even though the government has ensured that passengers’ data would be protected and secured, cybersecurity experts are sceptical that it could lead to misuse of data and unwarranted surveillance.”

Panda, however, added that airports abroad use facial recognition technology as well and it’s too early to say whether safety issues will crop up in India. “Right now, it is the initial step. We surely look forward to modernization of our domestic airports too.”

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first published:December 03, 2022, 13:20 IST
last updated:December 03, 2022, 13:20 IST
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