The intense surveillance of Hyderabad with facial recognition is bulking up

The intense surveillance of Hyderabad with facial recognition is bulking up

Even a glance at the digital eyes with biometric capabilities going up in the Indian state of Telangana reveal numbers that, while lower than those in China, are none the less sobering.

The state, governed from Hyderabad, had installed 64 percent of all CCTV cameras in the country as of January 2019. That is 275,528 lenses, according to The Economic Times, but that number might be only half of the actual total.

The state’s command and control building, which is nearing completion, will be able to handle feeds from between 600,000 and 1 million cameras by yearend. The paper reports that there could be one camera for every 46 people in Hyderabad.

Hyderabad is known as the Silicon Valley of India to people familiar with India or information technology. From that viewpoint, a heavy hand in facial recognition and digital surveillance is not surprising.

The government celebrates its face-scanning might, saying it is identifying and reuniting missing children. The police reportedly have found 59 missing children — typically by clicking on a child’s face at random on a monitor. Twenty-nine of the children were returned to their family.

Government agencies in India are enthusiastically embracing facial recognition. In January, a biometric system was used in a pilot project to verify voter identification. People can use biometrics for personal services, too. For instance, they can share a selfie and photos of identification with that state government to see a summary of their pension benefits.

There also are 340 artificial intelligence-supported analytical cameras across three police districts (Hyderabad, Rachakonda and Cyberabad) in the state that geotag criminals.

Telangana was created only in 2014, and officials feared unrest in the aftermath. “We had to resort to confidence-building measures,” according to an information-technology consultant to the state police quoted in The Economic Times. Surveillance was a major part of those measures.

The police cite impressive results of all the government viewing. It cut the state’s crime rate by 40 percent since 2014. “Heinous crimes” including gang rape are down 98 percent over the same period. And 99 percent of suspects are jailed within 24 hours of their crime.

The newspaper article describes a police camera operator spotting a man in real time exiting a rail station who presents a 95 percent match with the mug shot of a known criminal.

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