As India prepares to install a nationwide facial recognition system in an effort to catch criminals and find missing children, human rights and technology experts yesterday warned of the risks to privacy from increased surveillance.
Use of the camera technology is an effort in “modernising the police force, information gathering, criminal identification, verification”, according to India’s national crime bureau.
Likely to be among the world’s biggest facial recognition systems, the government contract is due to be awarded today.
But there is little information on where it will be deployed, what the data will be used for and how data storage will be regulated, said Apar Gupta, executive director of non-profit Internet Freedom Foundation.
“It is a mass surveillance system that gathers data in public places without there being an underlying cause to do so,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Without a data protection law and an electronic surveillance framework, it can lead to social policing and control,” he said.
A spokesman for India’s Home Ministry did not return calls seeking comment.
Worldwide, the rise of cloud computing and artificial intelligence technologies have popularised the use of facial recognition for a range of applications from tracking criminals to catching truant students.
There is a growing backlash however, and in San Francisco authorities banned the use of facial recognition technology by city personnel, and “anti-surveillance fashion” is becoming popular.
Facial recognition technology was launched in a few Indian airports in July, and Delhi police last year said they had identified nearly 3,000 missing children in just days during a trial.
But technology site Comparitech, which ranked the Indian cities of Delhi and Chennai among the world’s most surveilled cities in a recent report said it had found “little correlation between the number of public CCTV cameras and crime or safety”.
Indian authorities have said facial recognition technology is needed to bolster a severely under-policed country.