THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Remember the sensational Sister Abhaya case, where the chemical examination report was fudged by the officers concerned leading to huge uproar? Though the manipulation was brought to light, it revealed the grim reality that the distortion of facts was possible even in high profile cases. In the case of criminal investigations, the cooperation and involvement of several departments are required, a big ask at times. However, things might just fall in place as the Police Department is looking to usher in a dream project that could ensure data authentication and transparency.
Named as ‘Police 2020’, sounding the radical change the organisation envisions, the project proposes introduction of blockchain technology which will help information from various stakeholders to be collected and secured, but in a decentralised manner. The blockchain is a sophisticated technology where data is stored as blocks. Each block is linked in a chronological order as a line. The peculiarity of blockchain is that data can’t be altered and can only be added on to the chain as a separate block with timestamps. This is in a way an e-adaptation of the time-tested paper ledger. As no single stakeholder can control the system and the data is distributed across a large network of computers, the data is relatively tamper proof and immutable.
“The first potential benefit is that it could give citizens much greater control of their personal data, enabling more personalised services,” said a senior officer in the know of the project. “So, for example, complainants could control access to their case records on a blockchain, which could be updated in real time by both the police and the complainants. Crime reports could be made on a distributed ledger, with victims being updated automatically every time there is a development in the case, rather than police officers having to remember to phone or email the victim. This could even apply to cases under trial, where warrants and summons can be intimated to registered users in real time.” The second expected benefit is that it will enhance inter-operability between various agencies who play a role in the investigation.
In Kerala, usually a crime probe mandates the cooperation of five to six agencies, such as the Health Department, forensic science lab and mobile service providers. The new technology allows different users/institutions/agencies to access the data with varying levels of permission. Blockchain technology can have different modules, such as the community outreach programme, which entrusts selected members of the civil society responsibility to troubleshoot certain problems that society faces.
A prototype of this has already been developed by the IIITM-Kerala.