The deployment of facial recognition systems at polling booths in the civic elections in Telangana should be withdrawn, the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) said in a letter to the state’s election commission. These facial recognition systems violate the right to privacy, since their deployment doesn’t have any statutory basis and serves no legitimate state aim, wrote Syed Amin-ul-Hasan Jafri, a member of the party’s legislative committee, and also a member of the state legislative council, in the letter. “In the absence of any statutory procedure to seek consent from individuals, this procedure is fraught with constitutional irregularity,” Jafri said.

Difficult to seek consent at polling booths: He further argued that there can be no assumption of consent inside a polling booth and collection of such data without consent would be a violation of citizens’ right to privacy. Also, if the aim of the state is to address the issue of impersonation during elections, it should explain why existing procedures for fraud-detection are inadequate or how this technology will augment its efforts, he said.

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Potential of data breaches, no safeguards in place: Using facial recognition systems is contingent upon the creation of large databases of “facial contours and features” of citizens, and such databases are susceptible to breach and misuse, Jafri wrote. This is a big issue since the state’s election commission has not highlighted the statutory safeguards around such a database, which will protect it from misuse, he said, and added that this puts citizens at the risk of identity theft.

“…it is suggested that existing procedures be strengthened in order to identify electoral fraud more efficiently, and in a manner that does not violate citizens’ Fundamental Rights.” — AIMIM

The Telangana State Election Commission (TSEC), on January 18, had announced that a facial recognition app would be used on a pilot basis at 10 polling stations in the Kompally Municipality in the civic elections in the state, scheduled for today. The commission had said that these systems would address the issue of bogus voters. This would be an “additional measure,” and is based on an existing system already being used by the Telangana State Technology Services (TSTS) for validating the identity of pensioners.