Facial recognition system concept.

India’s plans for facial recognition condemned by human rights experts

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India's plans to implement a controversial nationwide facial recognition system has been criticised by human rights and technology experts.

India's intention to implement a nationwide facial recognition system has triggered a wave of criticism.

The National Automated Facial Recognition System (NAFRS) is expected to be the world's largest deployment of a facial recognition system. NAFRS received accepted bids by companies over the past months.

With its intended system, the government hopes to enhance security across the nation and provide greater opportunity for capturing criminals, identify lost individuals, dead bodies and more.

Apar Gupta, a lawyer and the executive director of the non-profit Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), said that there would be little information on where it will be deployed, what the data will be used for and how data storage will be regulated. 

He added that it is a mass surveillance system that gathers data in public places without there being an underlying cause to do so, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Facial recognition technology has already been implemented in select Indian airports over the summer, with the police already reaping the benefits, according to a statement by the Delhi police. It said it had identified nearly 3,000 missing children in just days during a trial after the system was tested on 45,000 children in the city.

Doubts remain over the extent to which the tech could really improve crime and safety rates. In a recent report by Comparitech, the Indian cities of Delhi and Chennai were found to be the world's most surveilled cities. Yet, it found "little correlation between the number of public CCTV cameras and crime or safety".

Vidushi Marda, a lawyer and artificial intelligence researcher at Article 19, a UK-based human rights organisation, said that the system's use in a criminal justice system where vulnerable groups such as indigenous people and minorities are over-represented risks greater abuse.

Other commentators have warned that at the moment there is no real regulation in place to keep tabs on the data to help in avoiding the unlawful use of facial information. 

Facial-recognition surveillance has faced strong opposition already this year in places such as San Francisco, where the authorities banned its use by the city's staff.

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