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Lucknow Safe City Project: A look into the proposed surveillance architecture, and a curious integration with Jio Cameras

Read how the UP government plans to map and integrate data from surveillance cameras while it mentions for the first time the use of Jio cameras by the UP Police, raising further questions.  

This is the third of a four-part series. You can read the first two stories here.

You are reading it here first: Imagine a large room, possibly with multiple screens displaying facial recognition data and other CCTV camera feeds from all over a city. At the touch of your fingertips, the ‘relationships’ of entities will be mapped out by going through numerous databases in seconds.

Seems surreal, doesn’t it? Welcome to the Lucknow Safe City Project’s Integrated Smart Control Room (ISCR), the proposed one-stop surveillance center from where cops will be able to monitor and analyse all feeds and incoming data as well as access other databases. If that was not alarming enough, the Safe City Project’s ISCR will also integrate with existing surveillance projects in Lucknow such as the Smart City Project, Drishti Project, and Jio Cameras — a separate CCTV system comprising Jio cameras, according to a tender published by the Uttar Pradesh Government for selecting a system integrator for the Safe City Protect.

Being mooted in the garb of saving women, the overarching surveillance architecture in the ISCR (according to the tender) will have —

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  • A command and control center (C4i) where live video feeds from the surveillance cameras would be monitored and analysed.
  • Apart from relaying live feed, the videos and images would be mapped and “compared with a database containing details of suspicious vehicles/criminals who are involved in crime-against women”.
  • The video feeds from the data center would then be fed to the Command & Control Centre (C4i) for viewing, processing, and video analytics.
  • Based on the alerts thrown by the AI-based video analytics, an incident management operator at the ISCR will validate it by verifying the image and video associated with the alert.

It is important to note that the UP government’s plan to map captured data such as CCTV videos with a “database containing details of suspicious/vehicles criminals who are involved in crime-against women” indicates that citizens in Lucknow will largely be unaware that they are being surveilled upon, and that their details are being scanned around the clock by an AI-based data framework without their consent.


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Integration of Safe City with Jio cameras raises questions

Earlier unknown, the fact that Uttar Pradesh Police uses cameras by Jio was first mentioned in the tender for the Safe City Project.

Drishti Project incorporates the latest technologies and encompasses a state-of-the-art Command and Control Centre for 24×7 monitoring of CCTV cameras. The Project consist of IP CCTVs, Command Control Centre and Data Centre with the objective of controlling crime in the city. Under the ‘Drishti’ project, 280 cameras are being installed at 70 locations in Lucknow. Also, there are total 1100 Jio Cameras installed in the City to reduce the Crime. Total Drishti and Jio Cameras are approx. 1500 — From the “Integration with existing Drishti and Jio cameras” segment of the tender

It is unclear whether Jio cameras come under the Drishti Project, or whether it is a separate setup altogether.

But first, what is the Drishti Project?

According to this report by the Times of India, the Drishti Project was set up in 2017, and cameras were installed at 20 crossings in Lucknow. However, the project failed as most cameras became defunct soon. In 2021, the ToI report said that the Drishti Project made a comeback, with the police planning to install “5,000 AI-enabled cameras”. No further details were provided on the set up of this project.

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In the proposed integration scenario of Drishti and Jio Cameras with the Safe City ISCR, the tender says that the selected system integrator would have to —

  • Make provisions of viewing Jio and Drishti cameras at Safe City ISCR in real time
  • Make provisions to view ISCR surveillance cameras at Drishti Control Room in real time

At the risk of repetition, the tender does not make a mention of —

  • Whether Jio Cameras are part of the Drishti Project;
  • If it is a separate setup, whether the Safe City ISCR videos will be available for viewing at the Jio camera control room
  • It also raises the question of what kind of data sharing policy is in place between the Safe City Project and Jio cameras.

It is with this and a similar line of queries that we reached out to the Home Secretary of the Uttar Pradesh government, who, according to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs website is the nodal officer for the project in Lucknow. On August 16, we also reached out to UP Police PRO and to Neera Rawat, the Additional Director General of Police in the Women Power Line 1090 section of the UP Police, who is heading the project in the police department. We were informed later by those in her office that she won’t speak to us.

The question that comes to fore is whether the said data (in the ISCR) is destined to be disposed-off and kept strictly confidential or if the said data is to be utilized by any public or private entity for any benefit/purpose/utility. While the project appears to be detailed, the actual positive or negative implications of it are yet to be seen and evaluated. In view of the above, it will be interesting to see what data protection measures are brought into place and to what extent they prove to be effective in practicality — Kritika Seth, Founding Partner, Victoriam Legalis – Advocates & Solicitors

On being questioned if this particular integration can be a point of concern, Prashant Sugathan, the legal director of Software Freedom Law Center said, “Any unauthorised data sharing with third parties without explicit consent of data principal is problematic especially in the light of facial recognition surveillance. CCTVs may not necessarily address the crimes against women beyond investigative purposes.”

Smart City surveillance videos will be available for viewing at Safe City and vice versa

The tender said that the system integrator would have to provide network connectivity between Safe City ISCR and Smart City for viewing the latter’s surveillance network in real time. “The System Integrator shall provision Fiber connectivity between the two data centers to access the video feeds,” the tender said.

Similarly, the tender said that the system integrator has to provide viewing of Safe City Cameras at Smart City control in real time scenario. These are the other integrations proposed —

Integration with UP112: This integration looks at what happens after facial recognition data is processed, analysed by the data framework, and verified by the incident management operator at ISCR. The tender said that the ISCR will then transfer the data to a computer-aided dispatch operator at UP112, who will then pass on the information to the police on ground. “ISCR operator will be able to see the locations and push dispatch notifications and other related alerts to the vehicles connected and controlled by the ISCR,” the tender added.

Integration with Mobile Surveillance Vehicle: Cameras in mobile surveillance vehicles, which is part of the Drishti Project, will also integrate with the Safe City ISCR. Under the proposed integration, the operator at ISCR will be able to view the cameras mounted on the vehicle. When an emergency button is pushed in the vehicle, the operator at ISCR would be able to view it, the tender said. The ISCR operator can then transfer the alert to the UP112 response team.

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Integration with 100 Pink outposts: Pink outposts have been installed in around 100 places such as near schools, colleges, markets, etc for the safety of women, the tender said. Through this integration, personnel at the Pink Outpost will be in direct communication with the Safe City ISCR.

Integration with WPL1090: This segment of the UP Police which the tender claimed was set up to deal with women’s safety and security-related issues will be integrated into the ISCR. These are requirements made by the UP government of the system integrator in this regard —

  • The cameras of Safe City shall be integrated with WPL1090
  • Incidents reported at ISCR shall be diverted to WPL109 through web API-based Integration
  • Geo-tagged cameras of ISCR shall be available on-demand basis for viewing at WPL1090.

Now CCTVs in Lucknow’s 165 Pink Buses

This is not an integration of an existing surveillance system but an installation of a fresh CCTV-surveillance structure, this time in Pink Buses, as part of the Safe City Project. These are the main proposed features —

  • Installation of IP-based cameras in 165 buses under Lucknow City
  • 3 cameras in each bus
  • 2 panic buttons in each bus
  • Surveillance video can be accessed directly in real time from Safe City ISCR if a panic button is pressed in the bus
  • Every 30 minutes a watermarked snapshot captured by the CCTV will be relayed to the Safe City ISCR
  • The ISCR will have access remotely to the past recordings of any incident in the buses
  • Bus to have GPS
  • Video recording will be on 24×7, even if buses are parked at depots or workshops.

What we asked the UP government

The Safe City Project has to be integrated with existing surveillance projects such as Smart City, Drishti. Now, the Drishti Project uses around 1,100 Jio Cameras.

  • What is the current data-sharing practice that Drishti Project has with Jio?
  • What will be the data sharing policy between Safe City Project and Drishti Project post integration?

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Written By

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

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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