Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia issued a clarification on January 24 stating that the consent of airline passengers is a prerequisite for capturing face biometric during kiosk-based registration and that Digi Yatra is not mandatory. He added that airport operators have been advised to sensitise Digi Buddies on the consent-taking process.
The statement comes after Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Saket Gokhale flagged that he received complaints from passengers that they were forced to sign up for Digi Yatra across the airports in India, or that their biometrics were being taken without their consent.
In a letter to the MP, Scindia wrote, “As you are aware, Digi Yatra is a voluntary process for seamless and hassle free air travel which is purely voluntary. Further, it is basically to be used through an app and all data is stored in the mobile of the passenger. To facilitate passengers not having the application installed but intend to use Digi Yatra, kiosk-based registration is provided only for the day of travel at airports. Consent of passengers is a prerequisite for taking face biometric on kiosk-based registration. Further, the data is automatically purged from the airport system after 24 hours of departure of the flight. The issue raised by you has been examined and airport operators have been advised to sensitise Digi buddies on the consent-taking process and keeping use of Digi Yatra completely voluntary.”
Welcoming the move, Saket Gokhale shared the letter on his X (formerly Twitter) handle, and said, “This is a welcome step. That said, if there's anyone out there beginning today who faces the issue of forced or involuntary enrollment on DigiYatra at airports, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will take it up on priority with the Minister.”
The Digi Yatra app aims to allow the digital processing of passengers promoting paperless and seamless movement through airports. It was rolled out as a voluntary programme from December 2022. According to the Internet Freedom Foundation, the service facilitates digital processing of passengers at airports by using facial recognition technology (FRT) and Aadhaar-linked credentials to authenticate passengers in place of traditional boarding passes at airport terminal entry points, security check, self-bag drop, check-in and aircraft boarding.