The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) wants to make sure that facial recognition providers remain accountable to the public. To that end, the organization will be launching a new project that will track the development and deployment of facial recognition systems in the country.
The initiative has been dubbed Project Panoptic, and it will debut on November 27. The organization has also asked the Indian government to regulate the use of facial recognition, and to pass data protection laws more generally. Until then, the IFF is asking for a three-year moratorium on the use of the technology.
The news arrives as India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is moving forward with plans for its own facial recognition system. The organization wants to use facial recognition to identify criminals, and will be leveraging the country’s existing database of passport images in order to do so. The system would also be interoperable with fingerprint databases, criminal justice databases, and any other system available to Indian law enforcement.
The NCRB is currently in the tender process for its Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS). The project has an estimated budget of Rs 308 crore, which is approximately $41.7 million USD.
For its part, the IFF has asked the NCRB to halt that tender process during its proposed moratorium. The organization is specifically asking for data protection laws that cover the sharing of personal information between government agencies, and with other parties. It also argued that the use of facial recognition would enable mass surveillance and lead to discrimination if those laws are not put into place.
In March, Indian law enforcement officials acknowledged that facial recognition was used to make more than 1,100 arrests following two days of protests in New Delhi. The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that citizens have a fundamental right to privacy, though that has not diminished the government’s enthusiasm for facial recognition, and the country’s privacy advocates have expressed concern about the proposed surveillance system in the past.
The Indian government has struggled with data security, and has suffered several high-profile breaches of its Aadhaar program.
Source: The Times of India
November 25, 2020 – by Eric Weiss