Right To Privacy

Facial Recognition Technology

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Right to privacy

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with use of facial recognition technologies by the police

Context

According to police officials, more than six lakh CCTV cameras have already been deployed in the city, with the very real possibility that this number will continue to increase. These all-pervasive cameras will soon be connected in a real-time network managed by Hyderabad’s Command and Control Centre.

Facial Recognition

It is a biometric technology that uses distinctive features of the face to identify and distinguish an individual. Over a period of almost 6 decades, it has evolved in many ways- from looking at 3D contours of a face to recognizing skin patterns.

How does it work?

  • The facial recognition system works primarily by capturing the face & its features through the camera and then using various kinds of software to reconstruct those features.
  • The captured face along with its features is stored into a database, which can be integrated with any kind of software that may be used for security purposes, banking services, etc.
  • In the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS), the large database (containing photos and videos of peoples’ faces) is used to match and identify the person. The image of an unidentified person, taken from CCTV footage, is compared to the existing database using Artificial Intelligence technology, for pattern-finding and matching.

What are the uses?

  • Authentication: It is used for identification and authentication purposes with a success rate of almost 75%.
    • For instance, the NCRB’s Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) managing crime data for police, use automated facial recognition to identify criminals, missing people, and unidentified dead bodies, as well as for “crime prevention”.
    • The project is aimed at being compatible with other biometrics such as iris and fingerprints.
    • The integration of fingerprint databases, face recognition software and iris scans will massively boost the police department’s crime investigation capabilities.
  • Force Multiplier: In India, where there are just 144 constables per 1 lakh citizens, this can act as a force multiplier. It neither requires too much manpower nor regular up-gradation. Hence, this technology coupled with the present manpower in place can act as a game-changer.
  • Varied applications: It is increasingly being used for everything from unlocking mobile phones to validating the identity, from auto-tagging of digital photos to finding missing persons, and from targeted advertising to law enforcement.

Opposition to facial recognition technologies

  • How it works: Facial recognition technology identifies the distinctive features of a person’s face to create a biometric map, which an algorithm then matches to possible individuals.
  • The system searches across databases of millions of images scraped without knowledge or consent and often fails.
  • Severe scrutiny: The use of facial recognition technology is already under severe scrutiny around the world, with some jurisdictions, including Belgium and Luxembourg, have already banned its use.
  • Ban by EU: The European Union is in the process of finalizing and passing one of the most comprehensive bans on facial recognition technology yet, while in the United States, multiple cities- and state-level bans and moratoria have been imposed.
  • More than 200 organizations have called for a global ban on the use of biometric surveillance technologies that enable mass and discriminatory surveillance, while even Facebook announced that it would be shutting down its facial recognition program.

Issues with the use of facial recognition technologies in India

  • Violation of the right to privacy: The right to privacy was recognized as a fundamental right, included under the right to life and liberty by the Supreme Court of India in 2017.
  • Absence of legal framework: Without a law in place to regulate data collection and to act as an oversight mechanism, valid concerns about privacy and other rights violations continue to arise.
  • High Infrastructural Costs: Technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Big Data are costly to implement. The size of stored information is extremely large and requires huge network & data storage facilities, which are currently not available in India.
  • Image Collection: The sources from which images will be collected to create a repository/database need to be known.
  • The concern of Data Leakage: In today’s world of cybercrime, it is important to put appropriate safeguards in place in order to ensure the integrity of the repository/database, so that it doesn’t leak out the information and is not privatized or monetized.
  • Required Expertise: Experts are needed to verify and authenticate data collected before storing them who should be provided proper training to protect & avoid abuse and misuse of the collected data & database.
  • Reliability & Authenticity: As the data collected may be used in the court of law during the course of a criminal trial, the reliability and the admissibility of the data along with standards and procedures followed would be taken into consideration. Hence, the authenticity of the data is crucial.
  • Huge amounts of public money are being spent on these technologies with no evidence of their effectiveness, further squandering precious public funds.

The National Automated Facial Recognition System

  • To empower the Indian police with information technology, India approved the implementation of the National Automated Facial Recognition System (NAFRS).
  • On its implementation, it will function as a national-level search platform that will use facial recognition technology.
  • It will help to facilitate investigation of crime or for identifying a person of interest regardless of face mask, makeup, plastic surgery, beard, or hair extension.

Way Forward

  • Save the time of police: This is a compare and contrast tool meant for identification based on existing information. The process of identification can be accelerated by its use.
  • Proper Legal safeguards are a must: With proper safeguards, this technology is much needed for India. Having the biggest IT workforce in the world, state-of-the-art technology can act as a game-changer for India.
  • Need to learn from Global examples: Police departments in London are under pressure to put a complete end to the use of facial recognition systems following evidence of discrimination and inefficiency.
    • Hence, it is necessary to make use of such technology, but it cannot act as the silver bullet for all the police reforms that we need.

Conclusion

Government programs such as Safe City, Smart City, and the Nirbhaya Fund have been utilized to bankroll these projects — yet the human rights violations that occur as a result of their use far outweigh any purported benefit that these technologies claim to provide.

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