‘Project Panoptic’ launches as facial recognition use by Delhi Police expands

Education agency answers some questions about online biometric system

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The Internet Freedom Foundation is about to launch what it says is the first system for tracking facial recognition technology in India, ‘Project Panoptic,’ The Times of India reports.

The move comes ahead of a tender for a proposed national public automated facial recognition system from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), with a proposed price tag of Rs 3.08 billion (roughly US$41.8 million).

The group has demanded the government pass data protection laws, as well as specific controls on facial recognition technology. In a series of Tweets, IFF issued a call for volunteers, including front end developers, to help with the project, and announced a presentation by AI for the People CEO Mutale Nkonde, which will be held on November 27, the day Project Panoptic launches, at 7:00 pm IST, to discuss whether India should ban facial recognition technology.

Delhi Police expanding face biometrics use

Delhi Police are planning to deploy face biometric systems for Police Control Room (PCR) vehicles, MediaNama reports, to enable beat cops and first responders to use remote devices to check suspect biometrics against the force’s database.

The technology has been used previously by Delhi Police to screen the crowd at a rally by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in late-2019, and to identify people behaving criminally during the city’s February riots. The e-beat book app used by police on foot patrol in Delhi also includes facial recognition software.

PCR’s are already equipped with 8-inch HP tablets with fingerprint biometric capabilities to record the attendance of personnel.

The pilot has revealed that 4G network connections commonly used by police are often not providing enough bandwidth to perform facial recognition matching, however. The next stage of the pilot will examine the systems protocols and standard operating procedures.

Non-suspect photos are immediately deleted to protect individual’s privacy, a police representative said.

The e-beat app was developed by Mobineers Info Systems and has between 7,500 and 8,000 users. It reportedly cost Rs 20 million ($270,000) to develop, and features facial recognition provided by Innefu Labs. The app’s rollout began in August, and has now reached all 15 districts in the city.

Ineffu tells MediaNama it is also a potential bidder for the NCRB system project, and its technology has previously been contracted by Delhi Police to identify missing children.

A representative of Mobineers said the app’s facial recognition capability has been used almost 5,000 times, and been used to resolve 8 to 10 cases. It uses a confidence threshold of “around 80” percent.

MediaNama also considers the question of whether the police use of facial recognition is legal, and finds some difference of opinion.

Education board says no privacy policy necessary for online biometric verification

India’s Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has said it does not require a privacy policy for its facial recognition system as it the technology is only being used as a second factor in a pilot project, and matches photographs it already has on file, according to another MediaNama article.

That claim was revealed, along with other details about the system, in an RTI (Right to Information) document filed in response to a query from digital rights group SFLC.in.

The system has been used to verify the identity of 2,399 students online to receive their certificates, and the accuracy of the biometric algorithm is above 99 percent in test conditions, according to the RTI document.

MediaNama suggests it is not clear that the agency’s reason for not performing a privacy policy is valid, or whether a 1:1 or 1:N matching system is used.

SFLC.in also asked if a privacy impact assessment had been carried out by CBSE, which replied that it did not create a template consent form. The document also says the capability was developed in collaboration with the National e-Governance Division, and that no private company participated in the development of the tool or any of its features.

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