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India to let banks use biometrics to confirm transactions

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The Indian government is allowing banks to verify individual transactions for those that exceed 2 million rupees annually using iris scans and facial recognition in cases where fingerprint verification fails. The move is an effort to crack down on tax evasion and fraud, according to sources who talked to Reuters, but also highlights major privacy and civil liberties concerns.

A few banks have already started using the option, according to the sources, who asked not to be named because the advisory allowing such verification has not been made public. The verification is optional and is meant to be used in cases where someone has not shared their Permanent Account Number (PAN) card with banks.

The new measure will be used to verify the identity of individuals who have made transactions, both withdrawals and deposits, exceeding 2m rupees in a year if they have shared the Aadhaar biometric identity cards with the banks.

The Aadhaar card, provided by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), carries a unique number linked to someone’s face, iris scan, and fingerprints.

Last month, India’s ministry for finance asked banks to take the “necessary action” on a letter by UIDAI that recommended verification should be done via iris and facial scanning, particularly where fingerprint verification has failed.

However, the letter did not talk about consent.

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