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India delays facial recognition tender deadline as Russian systems roll out



A contract to supply biometric technology to India’s new national facial recognition system has not been awarded as planned, as the deadline to submit bids has been pushed back to January 3, 2020, the Business Standard reports. The Union Home Ministry also responded to a legal notice questioning the basis for the system, saying the proposed National Automated Facial Recognition System (NAFRS) has cabinet approval, and only automates existing police procedures.

The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) challenged the legality and privacy impact of the system when the tender was announced by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) in July. The IFF points out that privacy was upheld as a fundamental right of Indian citizens in a 2017 Supreme Court case, which established legality, legitimate state aim, and proportionality as the criteria for privacy requirements. The advocacy group also says that the process of image collection does not include the consent of people whose images are stored.

The response from the Home Ministry says that the uses of the system, such as identifying recovered children and dead bodies, make consent unnecessary. The Ministry also says the system will not be integrated with Aadhaar.

Bids were originally due on September 13.

Russia embraces public facial recognition

A cloud-based facial recognition system has been launched to the Russian market by Ivideon, which is the country’s first, according to the announcement, to enable businesses to identify customers and offer personalized services without a major upfront investment or complex installation.

Ivideon has raised $8 million from Rusnano Sistema SICAR and Skolkovo Ventures funds, state outlet Tass reports, with a plan to target potential customers among retailers, banks, service providers, offices and public spaces. The new Ivideon Faces facial recognition service is reportedly being tested in a chain of cafes. The technology provides emotion recognition, in addition to identification.

According to the company website, Ivideon formed a partnership with Dahua earlier this year.

The rapid adoption of public facial recognition in Russia could give it the largest biometric public surveillance system in the world, even ahead of China, according to an independent analyst interviewed by Coda.

“It’s impossible to speculate whether China or Russia has the larger capacity” says Moscow-based China watcher and tech analyst Leonid Kovachich. “No one really knows how many of China’s cameras are actually connected to facial recognition technology.” Kovachich says Russia relies on China for hardware, it tends to use only domestic algorithms and software.

Coda notes that Russia is one of the world’s few countries with home-grown AI and facial recognition expertise, with companies like NTech Lab and VisionLabs regularly placing well in NIST testing. Facial recognition was also tested in Moscow’s transit system as far back as 2011.

Roskomsvoboda Lawyer and Activist Sarkis Darbinyan says the official narrative has shifted from public safety to explicitly using facial recognition to track and identify protesters, and traces Russian attitudes about privacy to the Soviet Union, when everyone on each collective farm knew the details of the other residents’ lives.

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