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In its latest proposal, the NCRB wants a facial recognition system that’s capable of more

The NCRB’s automated facial recognition system is expected to lay the ground for a searchable platform of facial images.

We missed this earlier: The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) issued yet another tender for an Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) last month. The AFRS, which has been in the works since 2019, may now include newer capabilities of recognising individuals with face masks on, integration with state FRT systems, etc., and other new bidder requirements, according to the tender which has been reviewed by MediaNama.

The NCRB is responsible for collecting and analysing criminal data which is subsequently used by Indian police. On October 26, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) and other non-vendor stakeholders were asked to leave a pre-bid meeting on the AFRS tender by the NCRB. Pre-bid meetings take place to consult with interested bidders on questions and concerns that they may have on the bid document.

The Indian government is increasingly looking to deploy facial recognition for authentication, including at exam centers and even for vaccine delivery. However, civil rights bodies have argued that facial recognition systems can lead to the wrongful penalisation of individuals due to low or faulty accuracy rates. Not to mention that India does not have a data protection or privacy law in place yet.

Read MediaNama’s in-depth coverage of the older version of the tender document.

What are the differences between the two bids?

Here are some of the key differences-

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Bypassing face masks: The latest version requires the AFRS to be able to bypass face masks.

The system shall provide matching functions on images/visuals of modified facial features like, plastic surgery, aged Images, bearded faces, makeup, expression, hairstyle, glasses, scar marks, tattoos, face mask etc — NCRB’s latest bid document

Integration with existing facial recognition systems: “The vendor would be required to integrate the proposed system with existing AFRS systems (established by some advanced states already), CCTNS, ICJS, NAFIS, and Talash,” said the new bid document. CCTNS is the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems, ICJS is the Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS), NAFIS is the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System, and Talash is a repository of missing persons and dead bodies.

The earlier version had said that the system will have to integrate with ‘various sources’. However, it had not mentioned which systems.

Removal of arrested foreign persons database: “It should have logical partitioning to cater criminal, Unidentified Dead bodies, Missing Persons, Found Persons, data in the database,” said the new bid document. An earlier version had included a database related to arrested foreigners in the clause.

Bidder requirements: “Authorized agents/Licensees/Collaborators of foreign firms are not allowed to be a part of the joint venture,” said the new bid document. Under qualification criteria for a bidder, the NCRB bars joint venture holdings with authorized agents, licensees, and collaborators from bidding for the AFRS. The earlier version of the document did not include such a clause.

In fact, a report by Entrackr quotes an unnamed senior government official as saying, “If you look at the latest RFP, you’ll see that the eligibility criteria is such that it favours Indian companies and limits international companies from participating in the tender process.”

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Process of installing AFRS long drawn out: a timeline of progress so far

June 2019: The NCRB releases a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the creation of the AFRS on June 28, 2019. The AFRS will be the foundation for “a national level searchable platform of facial images,” said the RFP.

March 2020:  The NCRB reworks its proposal for the AFRS and extends the deadline for the 8th time.

July 2020: The NCRB releases a revised RFP with changes related to CCTVs and databases integrated with it, FRT capabilities, and bidder requirements.

September 2020: The NCRB begins testing the AFRS on its ability to recognise mask-wearing faces, extending the deadline for the 12th time.

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Written By

I cover health technology for MediaNama, among other things. Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

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

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