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Indian police use of facial recognition in Chennai may violate privacy: Project Panoptic

Indian police use of facial recognition in Chennai may violate privacy: Project Panoptic

The use of face biometric technologies by police forces to identify people on the streets of the Indian city of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, may clash with a Supreme Court judgment on privacy, according to citizens and privacy advocates.

The claims come from different privacy advocate groups and publications, which recently quoted a Twitter post from an individual claiming to have been randomly stopped by Chennai police on December 8 and then tried to find out why.

Police officers reportedly took photos of people on the streets to run through a facial recognition system (FRS) to “identify criminals instantaneously,” reports Medianama.

In response to the post, the official account of the Chennai police force said people had “nothing to worry” about and that face biometric identification was being “used during night hours to verify the persons moving around at night hours.”

The force’s account added that the “system is very useful in identifying the criminals instantaneously.”

India still lacks enforcement of a solid privacy or data protection law for biometric data. The Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill 2022, if enforced, may still allow the police to take such actions under “deemed consent.”

Commenting on the news on Twitter, privacy advocates at Project Panoptic said they were “extremely worried” that Chennai Police was using facial recognition technologies in such a manner.

“Such use casts a presumption of criminality on the entire population & violates not just the decision of the SC in the Aadhaar judgment but also the right to privacy.”

According to the Project Panoptic website, 126 facial recognition systems have been installed across various states in India at the time of writing.

The news comes weeks after Indian press outlets criticized the latest DPDP draft, labeling it as “impervious to criticisms” and warning against introducing rules “that would undermine people’s right to privacy.”

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