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India’s NCRB extends facial recognition tender deadline for sixth time

India’s NCRB extends facial recognition tender deadline for sixth time

India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is still accepting proposals for the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS), after deciding to move up the submission deadline to March 27, 2020 citing “administrative reasons,” writes MediaNama.

Although the initial deadline was August 16, 2019, the organization has already pushed back the deadline five times, each time citing “administrative reasons.”

The initial request for proposals for the AFRS described the project as “supply, installation and commissioning of hardware and software at NCRB,” yet the more detailed request for proposal states it “is an effort in the direction of modernizing the police force, information gathering, criminal identification, verification and its dissemination among various police organizations and units across the country.”

MediaNama reports the new AFRS will be the foundation for a national level searchable platform of facial images and will be made available for access to all the police stations in the country. The centralized web application will be created by using facial images from passports, the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), and the Interoperable Criminal Justice System, and other sources.

The NCRB was criticized for its criteria at a pre-bid meeting in July, requirements which were allegedly preventing most Indian companies from qualifying for the project. Another top concern was how cases of plastic surgery would be assessed.

Advocacy group the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has criticized the plans for a centralized biometric facial recognition system, saying that not only is the system a surveillance tool that jeopardizes citizens’ privacy, but it is illegal and with no accountability.

In response to accusations, NCRB argued the system had been approved by the Union Home Ministry and that it would only be used in police tasks and not integrated with Aadhaar.

India has implemented other facial biometrics systems despite controversy. Western Railway division’s Mumbai Central station and Bandra Terminus announced in July that it was launching a biometric identification system to prevent trains from running over capacity. And in January 2020, Indian state Telangana deployed facial recognition for election polls.

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