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 ad defined the broad scope of work in fairly innocuous terms — “supply, installation and commissioning of hardware and software at NCRB” — but the detailed request for proposal (RFP) is anything but innocuous. The RFP states 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”. NCRB is responsible for collecting and analysing criminal data which is subsequently used by Indian police. It is supposed to annually release statistics on crimes committed in India. The Bureau released its last report in 2017, for the year 2016. For years 2017 and 2018, NCRB hasn’t released its report. What is this system? According to the RFP, this new AFRS will be “a centralised web application hosted at the NCRB Data Centre in Delhi with DR in non-seismic zone which will be made available for access to all the police stations of the country”. It will be the foundation for “a national level searchable platform of facial images”. The RFP envisions it as an app that will be available on Android/Windows/iOS and be used on the field as well. On the field, the police officer would snap picture of the suspect, the AFRS would send it to the local AFRS set-up where it will scan for a…
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