India is all set to deploy facial recognition but there is no law in place to keep a check

Telangana Director General of Police M Mahender Reddy along with senior officials launch ‘Facial Recognition System’ integrated with the TSCOP mobile app to aid investigators in identification of criminals in Hyderabad last yearBCCL

  • India wants to deploy facial recognition software to catch criminals off the streets but none of the laws in the country address the use of such technology.
  • Human rights groups and researchers asked companies to refrain from selling facial recognition technology to governments as it could lead to increased surveillance.
  • In the absence of laws to govern the use of facial recognition software, the technology could undermine a citizen’s right to privacy.
India’s facial recognition has already been tested successfully. And, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) wants the system to go live with it to all law agencies, by next year.

In April, the Delhi Police used the software to identify nearly 3,000 missing children over the course of four days to try out the facial recognition software.

But, there’s a catch. None of the laws in India address the use of facial recognition technology. It’s not just about implementing the technology but also about how the data so collected can be potentially misused.

The Home Ministry issued a statement assuring citizens that facial recognition will only be used to track individuals on the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network Systems (CCTNS), which is the national database of Indian criminals.

Misidentification

Without a regulatory framework in place, facial recognition could possibly undermine the people’s right to privacy according to Pavan Duggal, an Indian cyber law expert. He points out that even with the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, there is no specific mention of facial recognition technology.

The technology, though useful and mostly accurate, has been known to falter from time to time. There is no safety net in place that will help individuals to contest the results, if the software misidentifies a person.

For instance, Amazon ‘Rekognition’ software reportedly had trouble identifying dark skinned women.

There’s also an issue of transparency. Even though it’s enough to say that facial recognition will be employed to identify criminals, the actual algorithm that powers the software and its functionality are likely to stay behind layers of non-disclosure agreements.

Global take

Microsoft has been trying to push for facial recognition to implemented in the US to nab criminals. Microsoft’s President, Brad Smith, has urged the country’s law makers to put regulations in place before implementing the technology but certain states are pushing back, saying that it should be banned altogether.

Amazon also joined Microsoft in calling for rules that deal specifically deal with facial recognition technology.

Human rights groups and researchers, globally, are up in arms asking tech companies to refrain from selling their recognition software to governments because of how it could escalate surveillance.

China, on the other hand, is an avid user of facial recognition. There are over 170 million CCTV cameras along the roads in China equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) and facial recognition capabilities.

It is implemented in schools, to monitor student attitudes and stress levels; and even at fast food joints, where it’s used to try and predict a customer’s order.

(with inputs from IANS)

See also:
Facial recognition will be used to spot history sheeters and missing people only, assures Home Ministry

Facial recognition is almost perfectly accurate - here's why that could be a problem

Cities should regulate facial recognition instead of banning it, China’s AI champion SenseTime says

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