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‘Automatic Facial Recognition System is made legal by a 2009 cabinet note,’ says NCRB

Image representing facial recogntition

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has justified the legality of the centralised Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) using a CCTNS Cabinet Note from 2009, where a system, akin to the AFRS, was envisaged. Based on this note alone, the Bureau said that the AFRS has cabinet approval, and is hence, legal. The AFRS is a centralised web application, and is expected to be the foundation for “a national level searchable platform of facial images”. It is, however, worth noting that the AFRS solution that was approved in the CCTNS Cabinet Note of 2009 was diluted in 2015 to fund activities of the ICJS (Interoperable Criminal Justice System) project, according to a 2018 report by the NCRB. At the time, NCRB had asked the Home Ministry for Rs 20 crore to set up AFRS. NCRB revealed all this in a response to a legal notice that the Internet Freedom Foundation had sent in July. After receiving the response, IFF, in its rejoinder, said that a cabinet note is not a statutory enactment and because it dates back to 2009, it can not justify AFRS’s legality as it was approved prior to the 2017 Puttaswamy judgement on privacy. IFF told MediaNama: "We've reiterated [in our rejoinder to NCRB's response] the major lacking of legal basis and a failure to demonstrate sufficient safeguards against misidentification and discriminatory profiling in their response, as we have also previously highlighted. Our reply [to NCRB] indicates that largely all of our concerns continue to exist." NCRB also…

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