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Facial recognition surveillance systems sprouting rapidly across India’s northern border

Facial recognition surveillance systems sprouting rapidly across India’s northern border

A hefty analysis of government intentions regarding biometric surveillance in India indicates that the obsession for in-country intelligence is wafting over the Himalayas from Xinjiang, China.

In examining a recent pair of central government tenders for video surveillance systems, MediaNama, an Indian technology policy publication expands its view to include numerous similar local-government tenders.

MediaNama, it is made clear in the analysis, is not a fan the proposals, at least without national legislation setting rules for personal privacy. There are reasons for skepticism, including the fact that Indian police are using algorithms set to a match confidence threshold 80 percent.

Through its Telecommunications Consultants India engineering agency, the central government’s Telecommunications Department is seeking bids for the turnkey creation of a 548-site video surveillance network and control center in the jittery Jammu and Kashmir territories that India administers.

Not incidentally, the region would be on the front lines of any war between India and Pakistan – both nuclear powers – over a frozen morsel of land contested between them.

Facial and object recognition software by Awiros are specified in the request for bids.

Likewise, the territory’s police agency has advertised for bits on a new 200-camera surveillance network backed by face biometrics. It would integrate with existing surveillance infrastructure, including 400 cameras, in the region, according to MediaNama’s reporting.

The police want facial recognition cameras in markets, bazaars, schools, offices, public transportation hubs and border outposts. The department’s wish list includes coverage of all roads. Officials’ purchases have been relatively small packages, bid one after the other over years.

Two years ago, India began building CCTV networks in 11 railway stations linking a number of regions and territories, including Jammu and Kashmir territories.

Next, police officials in Jammu and Kashmir want to turn on a facial recognition system that stores 10,000 people’s information. According to MediaNama, they want to be able to blacklist and whitelist. The blacklisted people would prompt alerts when they showed up.

Other tenders have been floated by governments in Odisha, on the Bay of Bengal; Nagaland, bordering Myanmar; far eastern Meghalaya.

That is a large number of systems, and this accounting only includes the northern most rim of the nation. There are no standards governing data access, MediaNama reports, no standard prohibitions for misuse of the data and no formal regulatory framework.

Autocratic China has that much, even if all of it can be dispensed with a wave in Beijing.

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