29% fliers surveyed who signed up for DigiYatra at Delhi airport say they did so unknowingly; 15% say they signed up because they could not find the regular queue
- ● 85% of those surveyed say Government should create awareness about the program
January 29, 2024, New Delhi: DigiYatra, an initiative by the Government of India, launched on December 1, 2022, is fast gaining acceptance among air travelers. Using biometrics and cutting-edge technology, it promises to offer travelers a seamless, hassle-free, health-risk-free and paperless experience from check-in to boarding. The CEO of DigiYatra has been quoted as saying, “DigiYatra policy is an initiative aimed at providing seamless and hassle-free experience for passengers at airports. Its main objective is to enhance passenger experience by eliminating the need for verification of ticket and ID at multiple touch points. The onus is on us to spread the news of its availability, and encourage passengers to use these services.” Using the scheme, a passenger can get a DigiYatra ID by sharing details like their name, email ID, mobile number or any approved identity proof, including Aadhar card.
Early last year, Internet Freedom Foundation wrote to the Secretary, the Ministry of Civil Aviation raising concerns about the exclusion that may be caused by the Scheme. In a blog post, the organization writes that “The implementation of the Scheme puts data privacy and passenger ease at risk. While the Scheme states that the DigiYatra Biometric Boarding System will conform and adhere to data protection laws as applicable and mandated by the Government of India, presently the country does not have any specific laws on data protection. Further, when Facial Recognition Technology (‘FRT’) itself is the subject of an international challenge as well as proceedings before the Allahabad High Court and the Telangana High Court for being antithetical to the rights to equality and privacy, the usage of such technology for ‘passenger ease’ seems redundant.”
As an increasing number of airports across the country adopt DigiYatra, the question remains whether it is indeed helping fliers or security staff in granting faster clearance? In response to a RTI, Ministry of Civil Aviation has clarified that “DigiYatra gates exits in airport for passengers who voluntarily choose to use this facility…DigiYatra is not mandatory. The other manual process e-gates continue to be available for passengers.” The response also assures about the safety of the data stored on the users’ mobile phone, which is there on the airport system only for 24 hours.
The facts on ground appear to be different though. What started as a voluntary programme may be pushing the unwary into forcibly joining the programme, leading some of them to voice objections on social media platforms. After a number of citizen concerns on DigiyYatra were received regarding its implementation at the Delhi airport, LocalCircles has conducted a survey among citizens who have flown out of the various terminals at this airport, which is also among the first airports to have DigiYatra infrastructure installed, about their experiences of signing up for the program and whether they felt tricked or misled into signing up. The survey also gathered the pulse of fliers on what the Government should do to address the situation. The survey received over 21,000 responses from citizens who flew out of the Delhi airport in the last 6 months. 62% respondents were men while 38% respondents were women.
29% of those who flew out from Delhi airport in the last 6 months say they unknowingly signed up for DigiYatra; another 15% signed up because they could not find the regular queue
All terminals at Delhi Airport have DigiYatra boards prominently displayed with most entry gates reserved for passengers who have signed up for the facility. The survey asked “When you travelled via a flight from the Delhi airport in the last 6 months, how did you sign up for the DigiYatra program?” The query received 10,892 responses with 15% stated that they “signed up knowingly because of the benefits it offered”; 29% of respondents stated they “signed up unknowingly that the queue I was in was a DigiYatra queue”; and 15% of respondents stated that they had “signed up for DigiYatra because there was no regular queue”. The remaining 41% of respondents stated that they “have not signed up for DigiYatra yet and always found the regular queue”. The data shows that 29% of respondents who have flown out from Delhi airport in the last 6 months say they unknowingly signed up for DigiYatra; another 15% signed up because they could not find the regular queue. In both of the last two cases, the current DigiYatra design has streaks of what is called as Dark Patterns in the online world.
85% of fliers who flew out of the Delhi airport and surveyed say that the Ministry of Civil Aviation and its affiliated organisations need to do an effective job of educating citizens on DigiYatra
Not all air passengers have availed of DigiYatra for many reasons ranging from reluctance to lack of knowledge about the scheme. The survey asked “Are the Ministry of Civil Aviation and its affiliated organisations doing an effective job of educating citizens on DigiYatra (information shared by citizens, its usage, risk and benefits) before they sign up?” Out of 10,576 citizens who have flown out of Delhi airport in the last 6 months and responded to the query, 85% stated that the Ministry of Civil Aviation and its affiliated organisations need to do an effective job of educating citizens on DigiYatra (information shared by citizens, its usage, risk and benefits) before they are made to sign up. The remaining 15% of those surveyed indicated that they were aware about risks and benefits of the DigiYatra scheme before they signed up for it.
In summary, the survey reveals that 44% of the those who signed up for DigiYatra at the Delhi airport have signed up for the program unwillingly. In the case of 29% of respondents, who have flown out from Delhi airport in the last 6 months, they may have been tricked into signing up for DigiYatra; another 15% signed up because they could not find the regular queue. Not so surprisingly, 85% of respondents have stated that the Ministry of Civil Aviation and its affiliated organisations need to do an effective job of educating citizens on DigiYatra given that many citizens have used social media platforms to voice negative experiences or concerns about registering and using DigiYatra. The Ministry of Civil Aviation must take an indepth look at the implementation of DigiYatra at the Delhi airport and all other airports where the program is operational to ensure that there are no dark patterns and not a single user is made to sign up unknowingly. Also, it must be ensured that the non DigiYatra entrances are available at prominent locations and not at one end of the airport terminals. In addition, the Ministry should create awareness about the benefits of the program and how it ensures data privacy so more fliers sign up voluntarily for DigiYatra.
The survey received over 21,000 responses from citizens who flew out of the Delhi airport in the last 6 months. 62% respondents were men while 38% respondents were women. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.