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After Haryana police, Gujarat officials use ASTR to catch fake SIM-card holders

Gujarat police are using facial recognition to identify fake sim-card holders but is all this consensual?

Update: On May 10, 2023 the CIO News reported Odisha police's use of the ASTR facial recognition system to disconnect over 52 thousand telecom connections. Before that The Hindu reported that police officials used the same system to block nearly 56 thousand fake SIM cards in the state. Another day, another instance of state police in India using facial recognition for solving crimes. On April 20, 2023, Times Now reported how the Gujarat police found at least 29,552 fake SIM cards in the state using Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition Powered Solution for Telecom SIM Subscriber Verification (ASTR). The first instance of this AI tool was reported by Nuh police in Haryana. As per the report, 37 persons from across Gujarat were arrested by the CID’s cybercrime cell and Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) last week after analysing a database of 8.12 crore telecom subscribers using ASTR. Most of these cards were activated between 2020 and 2022 – the pandemic period. Why it matters: The use of facial recognition to cull out fake sim-card holders means that the police are essentially carrying out facial recognition of all subscribers without their informed consent. This violates people’s fundamental right to privacy enshrined within Article 21. Although ASTR was originally meant to be used by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) Haryana LSA unit, we are now getting reports of other state police using the technology as well. Does this mean we can finally start asking the government about possible legislation around facial recognition and…

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I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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