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Use of Surveillance Tools During Polls Can Affect Voter Behaviour and Raise Data Privacy Risks: Internet Freedom Foundation

“The Delhi Police has reported a match rate of around 80% on FRT systems… Surely, a 20% inaccuracy rate for a process as vital to India’s democracy as the general and state elections, is far from desirable,” IFF said, raising concerns about the use of facial recognition during election processes.

“…the proposed use of monitoring and surveillance technologies is antithetical to a free and fair election. The extensive deployment of video surveillance equipment will hurt individual fundamental rights, notably the right to privacy and dignity,” the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) wrote in its letter to the Election Commission of India (ECI), National Informatics Centre (NIC), and the IT Ministry regarding the NIC’s plans to monitor election processes using surveillance equipment. In December, the NIC issued a tender for the procurement and deployment of surveillance equipment—including drones and facial recognition technology (FRT)—for monitoring election processes during upcoming state and general elections. The tender outlined plans for live webcasting of the voting and counting process and to set up a “centralized command and control center” to monitor the activities in real-time. We have covered the tender in detail here. The IFF has urged the Election Commission of India and the IT Ministry to reevaluate the use of surveillance technologies in the electoral process. It has also recommended against using tools like FRT, and has called for a “thorough privacy-impact assessment to gauge their impact on fundamental rights of voters.” Key concerns raised by IFF in its letter: Surveillance may affect voter behaviour:  The NIC has proposed to install IP-based CCTV cameras for live webcasting of polling and counting processes. IFF has pointed out that the “omnipresence of surveillance cameras” may affect a person’s right to freedom of expression and can also discourage them from exercising their right to vote “without fear of…

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Curious about the intersection of technology with education, caste and welfare rights. For story tips, please feel free to reach out at sarasvati@medianama.com

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