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Commerce Ministry’s external trade promoter wants to use facial recognition to track employees’ attendance

You are reading it here first: A trade fair body under the Ministry of Commerce wants its employees to mark their attendance using a biometric system, capable of both fingerprint verification, and facial recognition. The India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), which manages the trade fair complex at Pragati Maidan in Delhi, on Wednesday floated a tender for procuring eight such devices, out of which five will be deployed at its main office in Delhi, and one each at its regional offices in Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata.

ITPO said that the system will be managed via an end-to-end encrypted cloud application that stores employees’ records and photos, and can be integrated with its existing human resource management software. ITPO is planning on using these devices for not just its full-time employees, but also on contract workers. Currently, it has around 600 employees, it said.

This is in line with an increasing trend among Indian government bodies. From organisations that track crime statistics such as the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to an education board like the CBSE, several government institutions are deploying facial recognition systems — even as India lacks a data protection law. The Personal Data Protection Bill, which is currently under deliberation, carves out significant exemptions for government agencies. The COVID-19 pandemic has only bolstered the adoption of facial recognition based attendance systems, given the reduced risk of transmission compared to a fingerprint-based verification system.

ITPO’s expectations from the system include 99.9% accuracy

ITPO wants the facial recognition system to have an accuracy of 99.9%. This is an extremely high demand, especially because facial recognition systems can have poor accuracy rates depending on a number of factors such as sex, skin tone, how well lit a person’s face is, etc. However, it is not uncommon for Indian authorities to demand this kind of accuracy. Facial recognition systems to be installed at Bengaluru’s railway station, for instance, have a similar requirement.

ITPO’s facial recognition algorithm should be able to carry out both 1:1 verification — that is match a face against the same face, and the 1:N recognition protocol — where a face is identified against an entire database. Facial matches should occur in less than two seconds, it said.

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To begin with, the system should be capable of storing at least 2,000 facial images, and 10,000 fingerprints. It should also allow for data retention for upto a month, the tender document said.

“Automated attendance system should allow to seamlessly manage shift timings, leave policies, break time, short leave policies etc. and allow syncing of data from multiple locations to the cloud server and sync shift and roster data also with the HRMS solution of ITPO. The system should allow leaves and holiday policies updation on the cloud from remote location/ client site (sic),” the tender document said.

Everyone’s deploying a facial recognition tool

From several departments of the Indian government itself to several state governments and their respective police departments, the use of facial recognition technology is proliferating across the country. Recently, CBSE rolled out a facial recognition system — sans a privacy policy — for students to download their academic documents. The National Crime Records Bureau is currently working towards building a national level facial recognition system, and only very recently revealed that it wants to test the system on mask-wearing faces, and for it to generate “comprehensive biometric reports”.

Several airports have added facial recognition systems as an additional way for passengers to board flights. Local police departments are purchasing, or piloting facial recognition algorithms — for instance, the Vadodara city police piloted Clearview AI’s controversial facial recognition system. States like Telangana have piloted the tech in civic elections, and are mulling introducing the tool for obtaining ration at fair price shops.

Indian Railways’ central division is also considering setting up similar facial recognition systems at some of its premises in Parel, we had earlier reported. Bengaluru’s railway station is gearing up to be surveilled by CCTV cameras capable of carrying out facial recognition, at a cost of over ₹4.5 crore.

Read more from our coverage related to facial recognition:

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