Automated facial recognition: what NCRB proposes, what are the concerns

Mains Paper 2 : E-Governance |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Automated Facial Recognition System

Mains level : Need for an advanced criminal tracking system


News

  • On June 28, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released a Request for Proposal for an Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) to be used by police officers across the country.

What is automated facial recognition?

  • AFRS works by maintaining a large database with photos and videos of peoples’ faces.
  • Then, a new image of an unidentified person — often taken from CCTV footage — is compared to the existing database to find a match and identify the person.
  • The artificial intelligence technology used for pattern-finding and matching is called “neural networks”.
  • Currently, facial recognition in India is done manually.

Are there any automated facial recognition systems in use in India?

  • It is a new idea the country has started to experiment with.
  • On July 1, the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s “DigiYatra” using facial recognition for airport entry was tried in the Hyderabad airport.
  • State governments have also taken their own steps towards facial recognition. Telangana police launched their own system in August 2018.

What does the NCRB request call for?

  • The NCRB, which manages crime data for police, would like to use automated facial recognition to identify criminals, missing people, and unidentified dead bodies, as well as for “crime prevention”.
  • Its Request for Proposal calls for gathering CCTV footage, as well as photos from newspapers, raids, and sketches.
  • The project is aimed at being compatible with other biometrics such as iris and fingerprints.
  • It will be a mobile and web application hosted in NCRB’s Data Centre in Delhi, but used by all police stations in the country.

Why need AFRS?

  • Automated Facial Recognition System can play a very vital role in improving outcomes in the area of Criminal identification and verification by facilitating easy recording, analysis, retrieval and sharing of Information between different organisations.
  • While fingerprints and iris scans provide far more accurate matching results, automatic facial recognition is an easier solution especially for identification amongst crowds.
  • The integration of fingerprint database, face recognition software and iris scans will massively boost the police department’s crime investigation capabilities.
  • It will also help civilian verification when needed. No one will be able to get away with a fake ID.

Integration of databases

  • NCRB has proposed integrating this facial recognition system with multiple existing databases.
  • The most prominent is the NCRB-managed Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS).
  • Facial recognition has been proposed in the CCTNS program since its origin.
  • The new facial recognition system will be integrated with Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS), as well as state-specific systems, the Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT), and the Khoya Paya portal on missing children.

What are the concerns around using facial recognition?

  • Cyber experts across the world have cautioned against government abuse of facial recognition technology, as it can be used as tool of control and risks inaccurate results.
  • Amid NCRB’s controversial step to install an automated facial recognition system, India should take note of the ongoing privacy debate in the US.
  • In the US, the FBI and Department of State operate one of the largest facial recognition systems.
  • International organisations have also condemned the Chinese government on its use of surveillance cameras and facial recognition to constrict the rights of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority.

Back2Basics

CCTNS

  • In 2009, following the Mumbai terror attacks, CCTNS was envisaged as a countrywide integrated database on crime incidents and suspects, connecting FIR registrations, investigations, and chargesheets of all 15,500 police stations and 6,000 higher offices.
  • It also plans to offer citizen services, such as passport verification, crime reporting, online tracking of case progress, grievance reporting against police officers, and more.

How far has CCTNS progressed?

  • The Rs 2,000-crore project is accessible to the CBI, IB, NIA, ED and the Narcotics Control Bureau.
  • The project did not meet its initial 2015 deadline and was extended to March 2017.
  • In August 2018, the first phase of connecting the police stations was nearly complete.
  • In the second phase, the Home Ministry proposed integrating the database with the fingerprint database of the Central Finger Print Bureau (CFPB).
  • NCRB is currently rolling out the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) and its integration with CCTNS.
Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports
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