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India state runs facial recognition on unsuspecting telco customers to fight fraud

India state runs facial recognition on unsuspecting telco customers to fight fraud

Facial recognition algorithms reportedly have identified 30,000 fake SIM cards this spring in the west coast Indian state of Gujarat.

That is in addition to unknown thousands of fake SIM cards that government officials reported taking out of circulation in February in the Mewat region. They were among 500,000 irregularly registered SIMs discovered by officials in an anti-fraud campaign.

In both cases, officials used a facial recognition service performing so-called telecommunication SIM subscriber verification. Examining telco databases with the algorithm turned up hundreds of examples of suspiciously similar faces associated with multiple service applications and accounts.

Some retailers allegedly had used one photo when activating sometimes hundreds of cards with different names, according to local news publisher Times Now. Thirty-seven arrests have been made in Gujarat based on information turned up in the campaign.

Another Indian publication, MediaNama, points out in an article critical of the effort that to accomplish their goals, government officials have had to let algorithms loose on all of a telco’s customer database. The publication argues that biometric verification without getting a subject’s informed consent violates their constitutional right to privacy.

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