Tamil Nadu's facial recognition systems slammed over privacy concerns

The State government had launched the Facial Recognition System on October 4 as a mechanism to assist the police department.
For representational purposes (Express Illustration)
For representational purposes (Express Illustration)

CHENNAI: The Free Software Foundation of Tamil Nadu (FSFTN) condemned the State’s implementation of Facial Recognition System (FRS) and said it was an abuse of an individual’s right to privacy.

The State government had launched the FRS on October 4 as a mechanism to assist the police department.

“The system enables the police to capture the faces of people and compare them with the records of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System (CCTNS) to identify a potential criminal. The CCTNS has records from almost 14,000 police stations across India with around 5 lakh photos of criminals,” said FSFTN in a press statement. It added that the system breaches an individual’s privacy as there is no basic standard operating procedure in place for its usage.

FSFTN, part of the Free Software Movement of India, is a social movement that works towards promoting free software, right to privacy, access and democracy in technology.

“According to a Cambridge evaluation survey, CCTVs have no proper effect on crime reduction, as it seem to be. FSFTN demands and recommends the Ministry of Information Technology, Tamil Nadu, to have proper guidelines for the usage of FRS,  and to initiate a public consultation mechanism before launching such a major project that involves people,” said the press statement. The release further said it was necessary to implement laws regulating the usage of FRS and prevent any misuse of the massive data.

‘FRS helped cops identify 7.5k criminals’ 
Addressing the media on Sunday, Chennai police commissioner Shankar Jiwal said the FRS has helped the police identify more than 7,500 history-sheeters in the city. “On Saturday alone, 15 rowdies were arrested with the help of the FRS,” he said. Speaking to TNIE, he added, “The FRS is primarily run by the State Crime Records Bureau (SCRB). The city police and police from other districts are just its users.”

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The New Indian Express