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Hyderabad: The growing Scepticism about Facial Recognition

Telangana government has started building a command and control center (CCC), a unit that would connect the city's massive CCTV system in real-time. The CCC can analyze data from up to 600,000 cameras and encompass Hyderabad, Rachakonda, and Cyberabad. 

Amnesty International, the Internet Freedom Foundation, and Article 19 delved into and obtained data from the Hyderabad Police Department, especially specifications for their cameras. The cameras have a peripheral vision of at least 30 meters, based on the findings.

According to Amnesty International's study of data gathered with the support of a group of Telangana-based volunteers, CCTV cameras in these two regions covered at least 530,864 and 513,683 square meters, respectively, or 53.7 percent and 62.7 percent of the entire area covered by volunteers. According to an article in the Indian Express, Hyderabad is the most monitored city in the world, overtaking New York.

What is facial recognition?

Facial recognition is a biometric technology that uses a database of millions of images to identify people by their faces. Facial recognition jeopardizes the rights of minorities by exposing them to fake identification and unlawful arrests. Facial recognition software can exacerbate biased enforcement even when it correctly identifies someone. 

Despite these concerns, India has invested 9.6 billion rupees in facial recognition technology. Millions of images may be collected without knowledge or approval from social media accounts, police databases, and publicly available sources such as newspapers to develop the system. Minorities are at risk of being misidentified and wrongfully imprisoned; for example, facial recognition technology used by Delhi police is only accurate 2% of the time.

Why do we need to condemn it?

Facial recognition technology can intensify biased policing and put people's freedom to demonstrate in jeopardy. Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, and transgender individuals who share a history of being marginalized are at potential risk. Its purpose is mass monitoring, but it may also prevent peaceful assembly in a free and secure environment. 

Amnesty International's Digital Verification Corps identified scores of incidences showing Hyderabad police using iPads to photograph citizens in the streets while refusing to explain why utilizing publicly available recordings from Twitter and news sites.

The implication of such activities on the Right to Privacy furthers the scepticism. The Supreme Court proclaimed the right to privacy as a basic right in the Puttaswamy v. Union of India case in 2017. Article 21 protects the right to privacy as an important component of the right to life and personal liberty. Furthermore, after the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDP) 2019 is passed, the relevant processes will determine the next line of action to support any claim made by the administration or citizens.

Who is behind facial recognition in India?

Amnesty International contacted the following firms to inquire about their known face recognition-related operations in India and to request that they reveal any human rights policies they may have: 

IDEMIA uses face recognition to regulate contactless entry under COVID-19 circumstances.

According to widely circulating claims, NEC India provided facial recognition systems to Surat City Police in Gujarat in 2015. They now intend to roll out facial recognition technology to airports in Varanasi, Vijayawada, Pune, and Kolkata, among other cities. NEC India's facial recognition algorithms can recognize faces even when wearing facemasks.

In collaboration with an Indian digital health pass system, Vision-Box is developing facial recognition systems. Face recognition technology provided by Delhi International Airport Limited is for "paperless" travel.

As part of the Advanced Facial Recognition System, Innefu Labs provided facial recognition technology to the New Delhi Police Department (AFRS).

The current developments are viewed as an infringement on human rights and the citizens' privacy and therefore have instigated the slogan Ban the Scan. Further discussions and the consequent defense from the administration may bring out a clearer picture and decide a future course of action.

Credits: Amnesty International

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