• Tuesday, Dec 07, 2021
  • Last Update : 02:49 pm

Mass surveillance fears as India readies facial recognition system

  • Published at 08:25 pm November 7th, 2019
INDIA-RELIGION-CONVERSION
A CCTV camer is pictured at Vaikom in the Kottayam district of the southern state of Kerala, India November 23, 2017 Reuters

Likely to be among the world's biggest facial recognition systems, the government contract is due to be awarded on Friday

As India prepares to install a nationwide facial recognition system in an effort to catch criminals and find missing children, human rights and technology experts on Thursday warned of the risks to privacy and from increased surveillance.

Use of the camera technology is an effort in "modernising the police force, information gathering, criminal identification, verification," according to India's national crime bureau.

Likely to be among the world's biggest facial recognition systems, the government contract is due to be awarded on Friday.

But there is little information on where it will be deployed, what the data will be used for and how data storage will be regulated, said Apar Gupta, executive director of non-profit Internet Freedom Foundation.

"It is a mass surveillance system that gathers data in public places without there being an underlying cause to do so," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Without a data protection law and an electronic surveillance framework, it can lead to social policing and control," he said.

A spokesman for India's Home Ministry did not return calls seeking comment.

Worldwide, the rise of cloud computing and artificial intelligence technologies have popularised the use of facial recognition for a range of applications from tracking criminals to catching truant students.

There is a growing backlash however, and in San Francisco authorities banned the use of facial recognition technology by city personnel, and "anti-surveillance fashion" is becoming popular.

Facial recognition technology was launched in a few Indian airports in July, and Delhi police last year said they had identified nearly 3,000 missing children in just days during a trial.

But technology site Comparitech, which ranked the Indian cities of Delhi and Chennai among the world's most surveilled cities in a recent report said it had found "little correlation between the number of public CCTV cameras and crime or safety."

Indian authorities have said facial recognition technology is needed to bolster a severely under-policed country.

There are 144 police officers for every 100,000 citizens, among the lowest ratios in the world, according to the United Nations.

The technology has been shown to be inaccurate in identifying darker-skinned women, those from ethnic minorities, and transgender people.

So its use in a criminal justice system where vulnerable groups such as indigenous people and minorities are over-represented risks greater abuse, said Vidushi Marda, a lawyer and artificial intelligence researcher at Article 19, a Britain-based human rights organisation.

"The use of facial recognition provides a veneer of technological objectivity without delivering on its promise, and institutionalises systemic discrimination," she said.

"Being watched will become synonymous with being safe, only because of a constant, perpetual curfew on individual autonomy. This risks further entrenching marginalisation and discrimination of vulnerable sections."

India's Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling in 2017 on the national biometric identity card program Aadhaar, said individual privacy is a fundamental right, amid concerns over data breaches and the card's mandated use for services.

Yet the ruling has not checked the rollout of facial recognition technology, or a proposal to link Aadhaar with social media accounts, said Gupta.

"There is a perceptible rise in national security being a central premise for policy design. But national security cannot be the reason to restrict rights," he said.

"It is very worrying that technology is being used as an instrument of power by the state rather than as an instrument to empower citizens."

51
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail