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Exclusive: Concerns around number of active users, and ‘backdoors’ raised at an NCRB facial recognition meeting

You are reading it here first: India’s plans of deploying a controversial national level facial recognition surveillance tool are gathering pace. In a meeting held on Monday afternoon, between potential bidders for the Automated Facial Recognition System and officials from the National Crime Records Bureau, bidders enquired how many law enforcement agencies are expected to use the surveillance tool at the same time, and if there is a possibility to allow a consortium of companies to place a joint bid. Concerns around the quality standards of the 1.5 crore strong facial dataset which is to form the foundation of the surveillance tool, were also raised, as was the question if that dataset will include pictures of juveniles. NCRB’s deputy director Prashun Gupta, and joint director of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) Sanjay Mathur, were present at the virtual meeting. The National Crime Records Bureau — the agency which has been tasked to deploy the AFRS — had released a revised tender last month, after about 3 months it started reworking it. The large scale surveillance tool is a centralised web application, and is expected to be the foundation for “a national level searchable platform of facial images”. In its current iteration, the tender document has said that the deployment of the surveillance tool will neither involve the installation of CCTV cameras nor will it connect to any existing CCTV camera anywhere. The deadline to submit bids for developing the tool is August 6. The companies that…

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