Face recognition (FRT) cameras will be installed across Mumbai city to curb street crime, Devendra Fadnavis, Deputy Chief Minister said on November 25, 2022, as per Indian Express.
According to Fadnavis, the setting up of FRT cameras with artificial intelligence (AI) is part of “the second phase of the Mumbai surveillance plan.” During the first phase in 2014, the government installed CCTVs throughout the city after a report submitted to the government post the 26/11 terror attack suggested the same.
Calling the 26/11 attack a “wound that cannot be healed,” Fadnavis said that in the last eight years (since the installation of CCTVs), there has been “no incident in Mumbai that can be termed a terror attack.” He even claimed that there had been a “heavy crackdown on organised crime on extortion,” although the report had no data to substantiate this claim.
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Why it matters: City-wide surveillance comes with the added concern of loss of privacy of citizens. Hyderabad is a prime example of this considering Amnesty International warned against the city’s heavy surveillance in November, 2021. Particularly, it criticized the use of FRT and called for a ban on the technology. The question of curbing street crime is also worth some skepticism since FRT can easily be defeated using masks or similar material to cover one’s face. Such mechanisms in the absence of required safeguards of people’s privacy rights raises many concerns about “state surveillance.”
Remember the Hyderabad Police stopping people randomly and asking people to submit to facial recognition and bio-metric checks? THE CRIMINAL PROCEDURE (IDENTIFICATION) BILL, 2022 makes all of it legal. Welcome to digital dystopia. pic.twitter.com/TXdr2rdTOc
— Srinivas Kodali (@digitaldutta) March 28, 2022
National security at the cost of internal peace? During the event organised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in South Mumbai, Fadnavis said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had come through on his promise regarding terrorism prevention. According to Fadnavis, Modi said “You attack us, and we will enter your homes and attack you.”
However, it is worth questioning whose house the government has actually entered. Last year, the Lucknow Smart City Project introduced a horrifying surveillance mechanism wherein officials could monitor people’s rooftops using drones. Worse still, all the cameras under this project would use FRT and all this sensitive data was to be stored in a local data centre.
Similarly, in Hyderabad, the police stopped random citizens just to scan their faces. Officials said they scanned people who could be “likely suspects.” Needless to say, such practices are most likely to worsen racial and caste-based bias.
To protect basic digital rights, various organisations are demanding implementation of a data protection bill. The latest version of such a Bill, dubbed Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, is currently receiving much criticism from experts for its loopholes. Although the Bill does not focus on data collection or data retention at length, it is still an important Bill to ensure proper processing of people’s personal data.
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