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Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS)

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Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS)

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: AFRS- features, need, concerns and significance.

 

Context: 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”.

 

What does the NCRB request call for?

  1. 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”.
  2. Its Request for Proposal calls for gathering CCTV footage, as well as photos from newspapers, raids, and sketches.
  3. The project is aimed at being compatible with other biometrics such as iris and fingerprints.
  4. 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. “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.”

 

How will the new database fit in what already exists?

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 idea is that 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.
  • 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.
  • The new facial recognition system will also be integrated with Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS), as well as state-specific systems, the Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT), and the Koya Paya portal on missing children.

 

Concerns:

  • 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 absence of data protection law, Indian citizens are more vulnerable to privacy abuses.
  • Use of surveillance cameras and facial recognition constrict the rights of particular class of people.
  • 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.
  • The AFRS is being contemplated at a time when India does not have a data protection law. In the absence of safeguards, law enforcement agencies will have a high degree of discretion. This can lead to a mission creep. The Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 is yet to come into force, and even if it does, the exceptions contemplated for state agencies are extremely wide.

 

Need of the hour:

The notion that sophisticated technology means greater efficiency needs to be critically analysed. A deliberative approach will benefit Indian law enforcement, as police departments around the world are currently learning that the technology is not as useful in practice as it seems in theory. Police departments in London are under pressure to put a complete end to use of facial recognition systems following evidence of discrimination and inefficiency. San Francisco recently implemented a complete ban on police use of facial recognition. India would do well to learn from their mistakes.

 

Sources: the Hindu.