Image courtesy: Al-Jazeera, Financial Times and CNN.com
On January 26, India celebrated Republic Day with great fervour, In attendance, at the event organised at Rajpath, were President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh among the other senior dignitaries. For the security forces deployed, nothing could have been left to chance, hence it was only natural to make best use of human resources as well as technological advances to their benefit. This year, one of the technologies used to safeguard the event was facial recognition system. So what exactly is this? How can this impact India?
UNDERSTANDING FACIAL RECOGNITION
Have you ever wondered, how your Facebook could once help you tag your friends while uploading photos. Facebook used a biometric tool called facial recognition to scan photos and predict the identity of the user/person in the photo
Just like fingerprint or iris, every person has a unique ‘face print’, this includes parameters or nodal points such as distance between eyes, width of the nose, forehead to chin distance including others.
Facial recognition system first captures the image of the person, then it analyses a person’s parameters and then predicts the identity of the person using an existing database.
USES OF FACIAL RECOGNITION SYSTEM
In the western world several crime cases have been solved wherein facial recognition system was used to predict the identity of high profile absconding criminals, terrorists or for tracing kidnapped/missing people. In India security forces used this to trace and arrest people during 2020 Delhi Riots case.
In fact, India wants to make air travel paperless by introducing facial recognition at the airport. Similarly this could be used in banking sector, hotels, hospitals for easy recognition of a person without the use of a physical ID.
WHY MANY ARE AGAINST IT
The biggest criticism facial recognition system faces worldwide, has been enfringement of right to privacy. For facial recognition system to work, there needs to be a wide database and several softwares collect data without permission from the person.
Since the system works on Artificial Intelligence, it has high error rate of 7-13%. In fact, the system is reported to show false positives in areas of varied ethnicities
In India, a resident of Hyderabad has even challeged the use of facial recognition system in court, the outcome of this remains awaited. Many activists fear this can be used as a system by the Centre to create a surveillance state.
Many people are also concerned about facial recognition, as they believe that their data can be misused to create deep fake videos.
IMPACT ON INDIA
Centre has made it clear that they want to create National Automated Facial Recognition System. A centralised data base that can keep a record of people. If implemented then this can transform the process of indentification and can help several sectors right from education, up to medical. It could help security forces solve crimes faster. Indentification of missing people, unclaimed bodies could also be made easier.
India helps its vulnerable through PDS schemes and the addition of facial recognition can further safeguard the mechanism. It can also those with limb disabilities.
However, the biggest concern is the absence of checks and balances. There are no safeguard mechanisms or framework of law to protect and safeguard this data. Plus individual rights will be trampled under the guise of public welfare.
Misuse by govt or private entities can lead to 1984-esque era, however only time can tell if centre will implement this plan into practice.