Akin to the facial recognition scans of citizens by Hyderabad Police in 2019, the city police were recorded doing the same in parts of the city on November 12, a tweet showed.
The Sultan Bazar Police Station in the Old City area of Hyderabad was conducting FRS of “suspects”, as they claimed, but eventually subjecting random citizens to the technology. This comes a day after Amnesty International criticised the usage of facial recognition in Hyderabad and launched a campaign, in collaboration with the Internet Freedom Foundation and Article 19, pushing for a blanket ban on such technology.
While responding to the query of a Twitter user inquiring about the kind of scans two police constables were taking up near Osmania Medical College in Koti, the verified Twitter page of Sultan Bazar police said that it was part of patrolling cops’ official duty and that they were scanning “suspect persons” using a tab.
At Osmania Medical College, Koti, under the limits of PS Sultan Bazar, it is informed that as a part of official duty, the patrolling staff will conduct suspect persons checking with TAB in FRS application (Facial Recognization System) to trace out the suspect persons.
— SHO SULTHAN BAZAR (@shosulthanbazar) November 10, 2021
It is unclear what criteria is behind the Hyderabad Police deciding whom to scan and subject to facial recognition. As documented earlier, people in Hyderabad have been subjected to such scans and activists have maintained that these technologies are discriminatory towards underprivileged sections of the society. The Hyderabad City Police has a history of introducing tech-related invasive measures that seemingly do not have any legal backing.
We delete data of those who do not throw any matches from system: Police
A Hyderabad City Police official on condition of anonymity confirmed to MediaNama that these facial recognition scans were being conducted by Sultan Bazar PS. He said, “Patrol officers take photos of the suspect using tab and scan that photo against a database available all over India,” the official said. The database that the official refers to is the Central Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS).
“The photos taken are temporary. And if the photo of the “suspect” do not throw any match, then we delete that photo from the system,” he claimed. When asked how the police determines whether someone is a suspect while patrolling and regarding privacy of the citizen, the official did not provide any conclusive answer.
This also goes against the statement provided by Hyderabad City Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar in response to the Ban The Scan campaign initiated by Amnesty International. Kumar, while talking to mediapersons, claimed that facial recognition was just being used for tracking missing persons. “This is nothing but digital matching of missing persons. It should not be confused with facial recognition system. Whoever has quoted is not correct.”
A few earlier instances of FRS being conducted by Hyderabad City Police from 2021:
In view of BAKRID and BONALU conducting vehicle checking and scanning with FRS to identify offenders in Amberpet PS limits. pic.twitter.com/NwDFBlAbox
— SHO AMBERPET (@shoamberpet) July 13, 2021
Patro Car 1, Bc 2 and 3 staff of Langerhouse PS, check auto drivers, passenger and suspects persons at auto stand through FRS, FPB and 3rd EYE at rethibowli X road. pic.twitter.com/oKmDFiOCtr
— SHO LANGER HOUSE (@sholangerhouse) March 10, 2021
GIS-based crime mapping plays a part in choosing spots for these surveillance measures
In a press release dated November 9, Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar said that cops should make use of the crime mapping application for revising patrol routes and so on. He said cops should —
- Analyse latest crime occurence timings and organise motorised and foot patrols in crime prone areas.
- Question and physically frisk strangers in crime hot spot areas while on foot patrol
- Organise foot patrol within 200 yards of crime hotspots.
It is important to point out that the Police Commissioner says “questioning and physical frisking of strangers”, rather than suspects, indicating that citizens too may be subjected to such measures.
Scans being taken up to build 360 degree profiles of citizens, alleges activist
Criticising the facial recognition drive by Hyderabad City Police, independent security researcher Srinivas Kodali claimed that these scans were part of the police’s aim to build a 360 degree profile of Indians in Hyderabad.
If you think whatsapp searches by cops are bad, check this. Beat cops stop people on the street randomly and take their photographs to check if they are criminal. Hyderabad Police is building a 360 degree profile of every citizen in the city. #BanTheScan https://t.co/V2NKJ0xRcw https://t.co/Fd7LtaygCk
— Srinivas Kodali (@digitaldutta) November 12, 2021
What is wrong with Hyderabad police!? https://t.co/2DU8lffInU
— Sa Gomesh | ச கோமேஷ் (@theumpires_call) November 12, 2021
This paan shop in lakdikapul saw police officials stop smokers and ask them for their phone numbers and click their photos. When I asked about the same, the cop stated that "the police was raising awareness". @hydcitypolice What kind of awareness requires photos and numbers? pic.twitter.com/Q3Xg0WdzIe
— Anjana Meenakshi (@AnjanaMeenakshi) November 11, 2021
A look at FRT and other tech related developments in Hyderabad
Facial recognition for “suspects”: In 2019, several police stations in Hyderabad took out facial recognition drives. The then ACP of Falaknuma police station Mohammed Abdul Rafeeq had said that cops, based on intuition, approached people they thought might be suspects. These “suspects” were then asked to verify if they were criminals or not by providing their fingerprints and facial data to the police, Rafeeq said.
Facial recognition for ration delivery: In the future, in Telangana, your facial data may be key to getting access to essential items such as rice, sugar, and wheat under the public distribution system (PDS). While the Indian government is still in the process of developing Aadhaar-based facial recognition, the Telangana government has identified a use case for the same and is planning to introduce it in the state’s fair price shops.
Artificial Intelligence in Hyderabad CCTVs: Around 2,000 CCTVs out of the 350,000 within the Hyderabad district limits have been enabled with artificial intelligence to monitor mask violators. Many questioned the security of the servers where this information was being stored, and many raised privacy concerns.
Drones in districts of Telangana: During the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, a few district police teams in Telangana used drones, in some cases equipped with sirens, for surveillance and for keeping an eye out on lockdown violators.
Legal notice to Hyderabad City Police Commissioner: In a legal notice served by a Hyderabad-based social activist to Hyderabad City Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar, the Hyderabad Police was asked to stop using artificial intelligence-based tools, especially facial recognition systems, for enforcing lockdowns.
- Why A UN Body Is Raising The Alarm On Biometric Recognition Tech In Public Spaces
- EU Parliament Favours Blanket Ban On Biometric Mass Surveillance And Use Of AI By Police
- 1 Lakh CCTVs At 4,000 Centers With Facial Recognition: National Testing Agency Expands Surveillance Of JEE, NEET Exams
Have something to add? Post your comment and gift someone a MediaNama subscription.