Facial recognition cameras have been installed at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport, and are expected to be in use by next month, reports the Hindustan Times. The system will first be used on airport staff, and will be extended to flyers by the end of 2019. According to the report, the systems have been installed at the terminal entry, security hold area (SHA) and boarding gates.

According to the report, passengers arriving at terminal entry gates would be required to enter their name and flight details at a kiosk installed at the entry as a camera in the kiosk will capture their face and generate a unique identification number. Upon reaching the SHA, they’ll have to feed this unique ID number into another kiosk, following which they’ll be given access to head for security checks. Also, before boarding a plane, passengers will pass through another kiosk which will give them access since their information is already saved in the system.

Before this, facial recognition cameras were tested at the Hyderabad airport between July 1 to July 3. We also reported in May that Bengaluru airport was set to introduce airport check-ins through facial recognition technology as part of the Civil Aviation Ministry’s Digi Yatra initiative.

NCRB has called for bids to install a centralised Automated Facial Recognition System

It is worth noting that on June 28, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) called for applicants to bid for the implementation of a centralised Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS). The advertisement defined the broad scope of work in fairly innocuous terms — “supply, installation and commissioning of hardware and software at NCRB”. The detailed request for proposal (RFP) stated that this “is an effort in the direction of modernising the police force, information gathering, criminal identification, verification and its dissemination among various police organisations and units across the country”.

Take your face masks off

The setting up of facial recognition cameras at the IGI Airport is tied with the setting up of CCTV cameras in Delhi’s schools. Not to forget Delhi’s streets which have already been blanketed by CCTV cameras. Without laws on usage of data collected by CCTVs, who shall be held responsible for upholding citizens’ privacy? We still don’t have a data protection law in place. Speaking of Delhi, a question to ponder: Will Delhi’s air pollution not deter this surveillance attempt?

Second, the Union government has been claiming, with a thump on the chest, that 123 crore Aadhaar cards have been issued to people. At its heart, Aadhaar is perhaps the biggest repository of facial data in the country which is already available at the government’s disposal. Managing a new facial dataset that’ll be collected by cameras that surround us seems like an uphill task for a government that in the Economic Survey 2018-19 called privacy an elite idea.