Facial Recognition Tech Identified 1,100 Rioters: Amit Shah in LS

Home Minister Amit Shah said that of the 1,100 identified, 300 came from Uttar Pradesh. 

3 min read
Shah said, “We have used using facial recognition software to initiate the process of identifying faces.”

Union Home Minister Amit Shah revealed in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, 11 March evening that law enforcement agencies deployed facial recognition software to identify over 1,100 individuals who allegedly partook in the communal violence in northeast Delhi on 24-25 February.

Shah added that by using the software, law enforcement found out that over 300 individuals came from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and that this revelation “makes it clear that this was deep conspiracy”.

In a first of its kind admission, the home minister, speaking about the communally charged violence that left at least 52 dead and over 500 injured said, “We have used using facial recognition software to initiate the process of identifying faces”.

While Shah did not specify the kind of facial recognition software used, if biometrics was used or which law enforcement agency deployed it, he stated that the software was fed with images from voter ID cards as well as driving licence databases, among others.

“We have fed voter ID data into it, we have fed driving licence and all other government data into it. More than 1,100 people have already been identified through this software.”
Amit Shah, Union Home Minister

Elaborating, the home minister added, “And I want to say that over 300 people from Uttar Pradesh came in to cause riots here. The facial data that we had ordered from UP makes it clear that this was deep conspiracy.”

In response to AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s remark that innocent people should not be dragged into this through the software, “Owaisi sahab, this is a software. It does not see faith, as a software it does not see clothes. It only sees the face and through the face the person is caught.”

Apar Gupta, executive director, Internet Freedom Foundation, which has raised concerns over the dangers of facial recognition systems said, “All of this is being done without any clear underlying legal authority and is in clear violation of the Right to Privacy judgment.”

“Facial recognition technology is still evolving and the risks of such evolutionary tech being used in policing are significant,” said Gupta.

Concerns Over Facial Recognition

At a time when several cities across the world have banned the use of facial recognition software by law enforcement agencies, Shah’s admission confirms that agencies in India are actively deploying the technology and feeding it with images from voter ID cards and driving licences to identify faces in still images and possibly CCTV footage.

In July 2019, the National Crime Records Bureau had released a 172-page Request for Proposal (RPF) or tender to acquire an Automated Facial Recognition System. The tender, however, has been pushed seven times since then and the bids are yet to be opened.

The revelation raises pertinent concerns as worldwide instances of surveillance, privacy abuse, inaccurate results and most importantly, disproportionate impact on minorities have surfaced repeatedly.

In May 2019, San Francisco, at the heart of Silicon Valley’s technological revolution, became the first American city to ban the use of facial technology by the police.

More recently, the European Commission, in report, said that it found facial recognition to be prone to inaccuracy, and can be used to breach privacy laws, facilitate identity fraud.

While it backed out of calling for a five-year blanket ban on its use across the European Union, it has instead asked member states to decide how and when it can permit the use of this technology.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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