After Home Minister Amit Shaha revealed in Lok Sabha that the government was using a facial recognition software to identify perpetrators of the Delhi riots that happened last month, he clarified in Rajya Sabha, on March 12, that the government is not using Aadhaar data to identify people using the software.

“It [using Aadhaar] was misreported in the media following my speech in the Lok Sabha. I had only said that we are using driving license and voter ID data for face identification”, he said. However, in Lok Sabha, Shah had said that “other government data” was also used for the software, and he offered no clarification on what that data was. We had, in our previous coverage, pointed out that Amit Shah did not explicitly mention using Aadhaar for face identification.

More people have been identified using the facial recognition software, Shah said, revealing that as of noon of March 12, approximately 1,922 people were identified, who could be “clearly seen partaking in the riots, causing damage to property and killing others”. He further said that the government had asked for facial data of people from 4 districts in Uttar Pradesh (the 4 districts number wasn’t mentioned in his Lok Sabha speech), and 336 people from the state were identified for taking part in the riots. The government had sealed the borders of Uttar Pradesh adjoining Delhi on the night of February 24, and had scanned number plates of vehicles that were entering the national capital, Shah revealed. “Now we are matching driving licence data with the vehicle registration data to catch more people,” he added.

Shah also said that he “respects the right to privacy”, and “the Supreme Court’s guidelines [on privacy] were not violated”,  but then flipped his argument: “I would like to politely say that people have died, become handicapped, their houses burnt down, and MPs here are talking about privacy”. Police should have the right to “scientifically” identify the perpetrators and drag them to the court of law, Shah said. He made this argument after Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien had asked him if the government was admitting using personal data of people to identify them.

India is also developing a national level face recognition tool

India is deploying facial recognition systems even though the technology’s biases and accuracy has often been called into question. Although a handful of cities in the US have banned the use of the technology, India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is looking to develop a national level Automated Facial Recognition System, which is expected to be the foundation for “a national level searchable platform of facial images”. The database for the system would be created by using passports, data from the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), and the Interoperable Criminal Justice System, among other things.