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The Government of India has issued a draft notification for making the installation of location tracking devices, CCTV systems and alert buttons on all transport vehicles compulsory. The GPS tracking, cameras and one or more panic button will have to be fitted by the manufacturer, dealer or the operator of the vehicle.

The video recordings will have to be kept for 7 days on the on-board unit and will be used as evidence for arresting an accused in any incident. The panic button will be required to trigger an alarm at the nearest police station & patrol vehicle while also sending real time pictures (using the CCTV cameras) to the cops.

The backend for the National Level vehicle Security & Tracking System, including the design, implementation, operation etc., will be managed by the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit Systems (DIMTS). DIMTS currently outlines the proposed architecture on its website:

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Note that the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had approved the ‘Security for Women in Public Road Transport in the country’ scheme in 2014, to install these security measures in public transport vehicles. The Government claims to have covered 32 cities in 12 states under this scheme, although no names or numbers are provided. The total cost of the initial phase was estimated to be Rs 1404.68 crore.

112 emergency services: The draft however does not mention integrating it with the 112 emergency services proposed by the government of India. In March, TRAI set 112 as a common emergency number which can be used for contacting police, fire, and ambulance services. Linking panic buttons with the 112 services might be a good idea.

GPS and panic buttons on phones: In May this year, The Department of Telecom made it mandatory for all mobile phones sold in the country from 1st January 2018 to have GPS in built. Additionally, all phones will also need to have a physical panic button, which will be implemented from the 1st January 2017.

Medianama’s take: Security cameras and panic buttons in transportation used by the general public will undoubtedly make it safer. However, as we have pointed out before, user privacy is an issue the Indian government really, really doesn’t take seriously. A sanction to implement tracking, GPS and cameras on all publicly used transportation without a proper legislation in place to protect the privacy of citizens, could easily lead to misuse of such a potent technology. Would the Government be allowed to track users without their knowledge? Without a proper legal sanction to protect privacy, there are chances that such issues may not be raised with the concerned authority until it is too late.

Parliamentary standing committee on IT: Note that privacy is taking center stage in policy issues in India, especially after the Government of India said in the Supreme Court that there is no fundamental right to Privacy. The country doesn’t have a privacy law, and is setting up surveillance systems like the Centralized Monitoring System, NETRA, NATGRID (for collecting data from across databases), and linking citizens and databases across the unique identity number in Aadhaar.

Also read: An overview of India’s cyber security agencies

Image source: Flickr user wackystuff under CC BY-SA 2.0