facial recognition software
facial recognition software

Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy releases paper on Facial Recognition Technology by private players

The Telangana High Court had recently issued notice to the State government on a plea challenging the use of FRT by the State and Telangana Police without a valid law.

A new working paper by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy's Centre for Applied Law & Technology Research (ALTR) has analysed the drawbacks and potential risks that come with the involvement of the private sector in the use of facial recognition technology (FRT) by law enforcement agencies in India.

This is primarily due to the lack of regulation and potentially sanctioning mass surveillance by private companies, when it is an exceptional issue for the State itself, the paper points out.

The paper highlights the following four broad concerns about involvement of the private sector in FRT:

Privacy Risks: The development of FRT algorithms requires access to large datasets of pictures, videos, or any other graphic corpus. This raises the question of how private corporations have access to such data in India.

Delegation of surveillance functions to the private sector: The second issue that emerges is whether the state is indirectly delegating certain essential functions. Surveillance as an activity is exceptional even for the state to pursue and is certainly not a function that can be delegated to a non-government, private entity.

Opaque processes and decision making: The third issue highlighted by the paper pertains to the overall lack of transparency and documentation through which procurement is materialising.

Private incentives driving public policy: The fourth issue is the fact that with private provision of surveillance technology, there is a real risk of private incentives (i.e profit motive) directing public policy.

This is the third in a series of working papers on FRT by ALTR.

The first paper covered the broad risks and legal challenges likely to arise due to the expanding use of FRT by law enforcement agencies, while the second paper looked at the issues more minutely through an empirical case study of the Delhi Police’s use of FRT and how it ended up discriminating against select sections of society.

Last month, the Telangana High Court had issued notice to the State government on a plea challenging the use of FRT by the State and Telangana Police without a valid law.

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