Right To Privacy

Deployment of Facial Recognition Systems (FRS) in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: FRS

Mains level: Right to Privacy Issues

India has seen a rapid deployment of Facial Recognition Systems (FRS) in recent years, both by the Centre and State governments, without putting in place any law to regulate their use.

Facial Recognition System

  • A FRS is a technology capable of matching a human face from a digital image or a video frame against a database of faces.
  • It is typically employed to authenticate users through ID verification services, works by pinpointing and measuring facial features from a given image.

Why in news?

  • There is a growing unabated use of this potentially invasive technology without any safeguards.
  • This poses a huge threat to the fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech and expression of the citizens.

FRS in India

  • Currently, 18 FRSs are in active utilisation by the Centre and State governments for the purpose of surveillance, security and authentication of identity.
  • 49 more systems are in the process of being installed by different government agencies.
  • Delhi Police was the first law enforcement agency in the country to start using the technology in 2018.
  • Only Telangana is ahead of Delhi at present with four facial recognition systems in active utilization for surveillance and authentication of identity.

Judicial scrutiny of the move

  • States say that they are authorized by the Delhi High Court in terms of the decision in the case of ‘Sadhan Haldar vs NCT of Delhi’.
  • In that particular case, the High Court had authorized the Delhi police to obtain facial recognition technology for the purpose of tracking and reuniting missing children.
  • FRS may be used in the investigation in the interest of safety and security of the general public.

A potential mis-use?

Ans. Can’t say!

  • Activists pointed out that Delhi Police was now using the FRS, which was meant for tracking missing children, for wider security and surveillance and investigation purpose.
  • There is a “function creep” happening with Police gradually using the technology beyond its intended purpose.
  • For example, the use of FRS to identify accused who took part in the farmers’ tractor rally violence in January this year.

Need of the hour

Ans. Bring accountability

  • Surveillance of any kind happens in secret and the people generally don’t know that they are being watched.
  • The idea behind is to bring light to the fact that these technology systems are being used without any laws in place to regulate them.
  • Police and state authorities should use such technologies for specific and special purposes with proper authorization.

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