01 November 2019
For the past few months, India is working on a facial recognition system named the National Automated Facial Recognition System (NAFRS). It will be the biggest of its kind in terms of size around the world and has raised privacy concerns in the minds of technology experts and anyone familiar with the possible consequences of such a move. As a result, Indian authorities have now come forward to defend the move as well as the motive behind the move.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has responded to a legal notice filed by the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), a non-profit organization for maintaining digital rights liberties in India. The notice covers a lot of areas but is primarily about the violation of privacy and the right to consent of Indian citizens.
The authorities have replied by saying that NAFRS does not violate anyone's privacy or rights. It said that the system only makes the whole process of identifying suspects automated, faster, and more convenient. It will essentially be comparing photos of suspects with the ones available with the Law Enforcement Agency's databases to see if there is a match. It further added that NAFRS will not be used for fighting crime and will be limited to identifying missing people and unidentified dead bodies.
One of the important points mentioned by IFF in its notice is that India currently lacks a legal and policy framework for regulating such a move. It essentially means that NAFRS does not have any legal backing and will be prone to abuse. For what it's worth, NCRB has said that they will not be integrating facial recognition data with Aadhar, a biometric national identity database of Indian citizens.