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Tamil Nadu to upgrade criminal tracking architecture, integrate with external databases like facial recognition system

The Tamil Nadu government plans to upgrade its existing Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System (CCTNS) and integrate it with applications maintained by the Tamil Nadu State Crime Record Bureau (SCRB). This would integrate the state-wide crime records bureau with facial recognition and fingerprint databases as well as external databases related to vehicle ownership, revenue, tax and others.

Recently, the Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT) floated a tender inviting bids to appoint a systems integrator for supply, design, development and maintenance of the  CCTNS, termed as ‘CCTNS 2.0 Web Application Software’. The Tamil Nadu has sought to update the state-wide criminal tracking system throwing up various challenges for the police department due to the complex nature of existing databases, and rigid nature of application and client-server architecture.

When the CCTNS project was first introduced by the Centre in 2010s, National Crime Records Bureau had developed a core application software (CAS) for the CCTNS and offered it to state governments for customisation according to their requirements. However, Tamil Nadu opted for its own CAS named ‘Common Integrated Police Records Updation System’ (CIPRUS), which is an application built on client-server architecture.

Essentially, a client-server architecture can support simultaneous work of a limited number of users. If all the clients (in this case various, departments of the police) simultaneously request data from the server, it may get overloaded and  may lead to server failure. In contrast, a web-based architecture (the kind that TN government is proposing) supports unlimited number of concurrent users and brings much more fluidity in its workings.

“The architecture is based on a client-server model and an outdated framework (Java Wicket) which makes data sync and sharing difficult. It also makes web service and API integration difficult. Even SMS services are not real time but run in scheduled manner”  — Electronics Department of Tamil Nadu Tender

What will CCTNS 2.0 have?

For the proposed CCTNS web application which will replace the existent client-server model,  the Tamil Nadu government has sought for a slew of software requirements which need to be developed and integrated into the application. They include:

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Facial recognition exists in TN, now to be properly integrated to CCTNS

According to the tender, the Tamil Nadu State Crime Records Bureau (SCRB) is currently developing a facial recognition software (FRS) separately. “The scope of the system integrator for this project will be to integrate the FRS system when it is completely developed, tested and deployed for use,” it said.

The separate FRS system captures photographs of accused, missing persons from the TN CCTNS’ core software CIPRUS. It then converts the photo into a data format with related details such as FIR and so on. With the upgraded CCTNS , the facial recognition system will be integrate in the following manner:

  • Whenever a photo is uploaded in the CCTNS web application it should automatically populate the FRS tool
  • Alerts to be triggered with every new upload
  • Integration end point will be a mobile application

Following the development of the CCTNS 2.0, the Tamil Nadu government has directed that the web application be rolled out on a pilot basis in some districts and police stations, according to the tender. “After pilot implementation, signoff and issue resolution, full scale implementation will resume,” it added.

It is important to note that these developments come at a time when the country still does not have a data protection law. Security and internet researchers have time and again pointed out that privacy is a fundamental right in the country and that there needed to be provisions and checks in place before technology such as these are introduced.

1TB of data to be migrated

A major part of the upgradation project involves migration of legacy data such as history of crime cases, First-Information-Report and other records from the existing CCTNS application to the proposed web application. For database to be indexed, backups have to be created and several permissions of the SCRB have to be taken, the tender added.

“The data migration has to be completed for all information from CCTNS 1.0. An estimated total quantum of data to be migrated to the new CCTNS 2.0 system shall be approximately 1 TB, which may however be subject to change depending on the completeness and quality of the existing data,” it added.

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Strict security protocols requested

The Tamil Nadu government has asked the bidder to ensure that the system is safe and prevents cyber attacks such as denial of service, distribute denial of service, phishing, malware attack and so on. They have also asked for a feature to block a particular IP/range of IPs or network from accessing the website, and maintain regular backups of data.

“The TN State Datacenter where the applications shall be hosted has Cybersecurity components embedded within their server and switching infrastructure. The Bidder shall peruse the same existing server-side security components,” it added.

Myriad problems in existing CCTNS in TN

Although we have touched on the issues of the existing CCTNS briefly above, the tender gives a much broader, and a rare view into the problems of these softwares which handle crucial databases on a daily basis. The present system is so rigid that, as the tender mentions, it is making work more difficult for the investigating officer.

“The application architecture is rigid in nature, i.e. it allows users to enter data using a sequence of case events. If an information is not available, the user has no option to return to it when it is available. Also since most data fields are optional to enter, users mostly skip filling it and keep it null and making it difficult for the investigating officer to track it later,” the tender said.

It makes data syncing difficult because the framework is outdated. The tender said that even for minor corrections such as addition of a new police station the entire application has to be upgraded. “This involves testing of all functionalities again, which makes the process time consuming.”

What investigating officer felt was lacking the most in the CCTNS was a system diagnostic, analytical or reporting tool, an issue which through this proposed upgradation, TN government is hoping to resolve.

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**MediaNama has reached out to an official of the Tamil Nadu State Crime Records Bureau, and the copy will be updated with their response.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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