[Answered] ““The Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) recently proposed by the Ministry of Home Affairs can have disastrous consequences”. Critically analyse.

Demand of the question
Introduction. What is facial recognition system?
Body. Concerns related to AFRS
Conclusion. Way forward.

A facial recognition system is a technology that can identify a person by analysing person’s facial features and shape. A person can be verified from a digital image or a video. Recently, Ministry of Home Affairs proposed Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) to identify criminals against existing records in the Crime and Criminal Tracking Networks and System (CCTNS) database. But there are many issues and concerns related to AFRS.

Concerns related to Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS):

  1. Against right to privacy:
    • Article 21 of the Indian constitution ensures right to privacy. AFRS will collect biometric of our faces. Thus it will invade right to privacy of Indian citizens where state will have access to critical biometrics which can be misused.
    • Consumers may not understand or be aware of the purpose for which their data is being used.
    • Recent misuse of individuals’ data by Facebook like images, names etc already raised concern of threat to privacy.
  2. Mass surveillance:
    • Facial recognition can potentially lead to a system of mass surveillance. In the absence of safeguards, state will have a high degree of discretion.
    • Recent reports of USA surveillance on its citizens using data raises such concerns even more.
  3. Threat to democracy:
    • It can be used by state to suppress dissent and other freedoms.
    • This will impact governance, accountability and answerability of the government which are important for democracy.
  4. Punishment to innocent:
    • The system will treat each person captured in images from CCTV cameras and other sources as a potential criminal.
    • This means that all will be treated as potential criminals where any error in data can lead to an innocent treated as guilty.
  5. Inaccurate technology:
    • Accuracy rates of facial recognition technology is low particularly in the case of women and children.
    • In August 2018, a facial recognition system used by the Delhi police was reported to have an accuracy rate of only 2%.
    • Thus chances of an individual being wrongly identified as a criminal are high.
  6. Tough to prove innocence: A person once recorded as a criminal in facial database reduce his/her chances to prove him not guilty even in if he is innocent.
  7. Security Concerns: Such a critical and large amount of data is always vulnerable to cyberattacks. This can endanger citizens’ and nation’s security.
  8. Misuse in Elections: Such a database maybe misused by politicians to garner votes through blackmailing and other threats. This jeopardise free and fair elections.

Thus employing such an inaccurate technology at such a massive scale can prove disastrous. Even stringent laws and regulations cannot ensure complete security and privacy. Thus AFRS need to be revisit by government with proper study of its impact on various sector.

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