G. Kishan Reddy, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, avoided giving a specific response about the government’s action plan for using facial recognition technology to control crime, control borders and counter terrorism in the country. He also did not specify if the government had a mechanism to balance between regulation and promotion of emerging technologies, such as facial recognition.

Reddy did not answer Congress MP Amar Singh’s question about the steps taken by the government to address biases in a facial recognition system either. These biases can potentially lead to punitive action against innocent people. Here’s what Reddy’s response was:

“Adoption of emerging technologies for security forces is a continuous and ongoing process. The Union Government has adopted and promoted emerging technologies for upgradation of police forces from time to time. The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) keep on finalizing Qualitative Requirements (QRs) and Trial Directives (TDs) as and when the need arises in case of any emerging technology and these Forces can follow these specifications and acquire them as per their felt need after following due codal formalities. State Governments also adopt these QRs and TDs for acquisition of the products in such technologies including facial recognition technology” — G Kishan Reddy’s response to Amar Singh’s questions

Indian authorities use facial recognition technology unabated, sans policy

Amar Singh’s questions and Reddy’s non-response come after Home Minister Amit Shah revealed in Parliament last week that the government was using a facial recognition software to identify perpetrators of riots that broke out in Delhi in February, and had identified around 2,000 people. The footage that Delhiites sent to Delhi Police was compared against voter ID data, driver’s licence, and “other government data”. Apart from that, Indian law enforcement agencies continue to use facial recognition technology indiscriminately at rallies, polling booths and protests without any law or policy governing its use.

  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is in the midst of inviting applicants for the implementation of a centralised Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) that will be a platform of facial images accessible to all police stations of the country. Reddy had previously said that AFRS would not violate citizens’ privacy.
  • In February 2020, we reported that the Vadodara City Policy is planning to use Clearview AI’s controversial facial recognition software in public places to track “property offenders”. This software could also be used in CCTVs installed at “specific locations” in the city.
  • In January 2020, the Telangana State Election Commission (TSEC) piloted a facial recognition app would be used on a pilot basis at 10 polling stations in the Kompally Municipality in the state’s civic elections.
  • In January 2020, The Indian Railways said that it was in the process of installing Video Surveillance Systems (VSS), equipped with a facial recognition system, in 983 railway stations across the country.
  • In December 2018, Delhi Police used facial recognition technology at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally to screen crowds, News18 had reported.
  • In November 2019, the Hyderabad Police randomly collected people’s fingerprints and facial data to identify “potential” criminals using the TSCOP app which was launched in January 2018. Syed Rafeeq, Additional DCP, South Zone, Hyderabad, had told MediaNama that the police was approaching people to verify if they were “suspects” mostly based on intuition.