Critics denounce use of facial recognition tech to identify Delhi rioters

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 12, 2020

Home Minister Amit Shah in the Lok Sabha during the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Wednesday   -  PTI

Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday said the law enforcement agencies had used facial recognition to identify more than 1,000 rioters who sparked violence in Delhi last month, according to media reports.

Speaking in the Lok Sabha, Shah said: “This is a software. It does not see faith. It does not see clothes. It only sees the face and through the face, the person is caught.” Shah was responding to a minister who urged the Home Ministry not to use facial surveillance on innocent people.

According to the minister, the law enforcement agencies used a facial recognition system that was linked to the databases of government-issued ID cards, including Aadhar cards and driving licences. It had helped the agencies identify the perpetrators of the violence in northeast Delhi on February 25 and 26.

Meanwhile critics, including Opposition ministers, have urged the government to consult experts and formulate a law before deploying such technology, according to media reports.

According to digital rights advocacy group, the Internet Freedom Foundation, the use of Aadhaar without judicial authorisation violates the judgement of the Supreme Court in KS Puttaswamy v. UoI (2019). The group also questioned the sophistication of the facial recognition system to identify culprits, Tech Crunch reported.

The group maintained that the system’s accuracy was flawed; it had even failed to distinguish between genders when deployed by the Delhi government to track missing children.

Facial recognition was also used by the police forces of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh in January and early February to identify anti-citizenship law protesters.

Published on March 12, 2020

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