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Telangana Police Issues Tender to Acquire Advanced System for Strengthening Biometric Data Collection of Criminal Offenders

The current project is undertaken in view of the New Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022, which enables law enforcement agencies to carry out extensive collection of biometric data.

In a bid to intensify biometric collection processes for criminal offenders, the Telangana State Police Department has issued a short tender call seeking a service provider for the implementation of Automated Multimodal Biometric Identification System (AMBIS).

According to the tender, the State police is looking to transform or upgrade the existing Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS)–implemented by Papillon, Russia in 2017—into a new software and hardware system called Papillon AMBIS. Specifically, as per the tender, the Finger Print Bureau, and the CID of the Telangana State are currently using the AFIS.

The current project is undertaken in view of the new Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022, which enables law enforcement agencies to carry out extensive collection of biometric data such as iris scans, facial images, fingerprints, footprints, etc. of undertrials, and prisoners.

More about the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act:

The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act [CrPI Act], passed in April 2022, strengthens the powers of law enforcement agencies’ and courts’ powers to process biometrics, DNA samples, and other data of criminal offenders, dubbed as ‘measurements’ in the bill.

The Rules notified under the Act, allow an authorised user or any person skilled in taking measurements to collect biometric data such as finger-impressions, palm-print impressions, foot-print impressions, photographs, iris and retina scan, physical, biological samples and their analysis, behavioural attributes including signatures, handwriting, etc of an individual for the purposes of the Act. While the rules fail to provide criteria for the said “skilled person”, the CrPI Act does not differentiate between convicts or undertrials. As per its provisions, authorities can collect measurements from any arrested person.

The Act was subject to much criticism from the opposition parties and internet rights organisations for expanding the scope of powers of law enforcement agencies, failing to provide adequate safeguards for sensitive data collected, and for violating data protection practices. Challenging the constitutionality of various sections of the Act, a petitioner at the Delhi High Court had stated:

“Provisions of the Act may facilitate the creation of a dangerous end-product, a breed which is typical of invariably all totalitarian regimes: an ‘ideal’ citizen who is obedient, who does not indulge in activities which the State labels and treats as criminal, who does not dissent and who in the records of the State is a ‘good’ and ‘innocent’ citizen.”

The constitutionality of the provisions of the Act were also challenged at the Madras High Court. The petitioner termed specific provisions of the Act as “unconstitutional, illegal and void” because they violated the rights to equality and free speech as well as a person’s right to not be a witness against themselves. The plea also argued violation of right to life and personal liberty and “promotion of international peace and security.”

Why does it matter?

One must not forget that the Hyderabad police is infamous for their invasive and privacy-infringing surveillance activities such as using facial recognition technology for predictive policing, identifying suspected criminals, history sheeters, or even missing persons. In response to a petition challenging the unchecked and disproportionate use of FRT by the police, the Telangana police had justified such operations stating that under Identification of Prisoners Act 1920 and Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act 2022, the police had enough power to use tools such as FRS for prevention of crime and identification of terror suspects.

The police stated that the section 3 of Identification of Prisoners Act enables police to capture data of persons who have been convicted and imprisoned for more than a year. While the rule is only applicable for prisoners, convicts, and detained persons, the police did not explain how did they go about scanning people’s faces or clicking their pictures in public, merely on the basis of suspicion.

Notably, the petitioner, social activist S.Q. Masood, had also questioned the use of FRT under the city’s CCTV networks.  Masood had highlighted that the runaway use of face scanning tools was in violation of his right to privacy and of personal liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

What’s the police seeking to acquire through the new project?

Additional resources for collecting biometric data: The State police has sought software plugins and hardware components to address the gap between existing AFIS infrastructure and the proposed AMBIS system. The State police will be identifying five Police Stations (where palm live scanners already exist) as pilot, which will be equipped with additional software and hardware components, such as the following:

  • Capturing face and profile photos to enable Facial Recognition System (FRS): The police is looking to acquire items for capturing high quality photographs of a criminal while enrolment, and for indexing, storing and matching the collected data. Such data should be made available for the patrolling vehicles through Mobile Security Check Device (MSCD). The bidder will have to provide HD web cameras for the purpose.
  • Iris capturing equipment: This item will enable capturing, indexing, storing and matching iris of the individual during enrolment.
  • Footprint capturing equipment: This will enable capturing, processing, indexing and storing footprint data.
  • Signature and handwriting image storage solution: This equipment will enable officials to add signature, handwritings after scanning through flatbed scanners.
  • Physical measurements and Demographical details: The tender has also sought arrangement for measurement collection boards and related tools and collecting information, storing, indexing and matching.
  • Workstation for enrolment stations: This includes providing desktop computers for enrolment stations.

Mobile Search Terminals: The Telangana police wants to add features for face searching to their current mobile application (DiPP7) that will enhance existing fingerprint and facial recognition capabilities. This will also be allowing the police to search and compare data on mobile terminals.

Additionally, the tender stated, “The app should be built in way so that there is an increased efficiency and mobility in fingerprint and facial recognition tasks. Improved identification accuracy through combined biometric searches. Ensure user-friendly interface and intuitive search experience. Securely store and transmit biometric data in compliance with regulations. The search must be in combination of fingerprints, faces and both with selection of various fingerprints. The search capability should be 1:N.”

The tender also details out the make and model of each of the equipment that the police want to acquire and deploy. The selected agency will also have to provide “hands-on training” to the department officials on usage of the installed systems.

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Written By

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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