Facial recognition system of Tamil Nadu police stirs privacy row | Latest News India

Chief Minister Stalin’s facial recognition system launched by police last year to identify criminals has sparked controversy after a motorist in Chennai tweeted about checking it at night, raising concerns about the collection of personal data and the right to privacy.

On December 8, a Twitter user, Siddharth, tweeted to the Chennai police and traffic police: “COMPLAIN. A strange thing happened while I was returning home yesterday, near Thillai Ganga Nagar Metro. A couple of cops stopped me, took a picture of my face and just let me go. When asked why, he simply ignored it. What is this new procedure?!”

To this the verified handle of Greater Chennai Police replied, “Facial recognition system is being used in night hours to check people moving in night hours. This system is useful to identify criminals immediately. No need to worry.”

Several users pointed out the Orwellian system and asked if this is legal. “We are very concerned about how facial recognition technology is being used by the Chennai police,” tweeted Project Panoptic, a community project that is tracking facial recognition projects in India as a mass surveillance system. “Such use creates a presumption of criminality on the entire population and not only the SC decision in the Aadhaar verdict, but also violates the right to privacy.”

According to their website, 126 facial recognition systems have been installed in various states.

In January, social activist SQ Masood took the Telangana state police to the state high court for forcing her to remove her mask in May 2020 and photographing her without permission. The next day, she wrote to the Hyderabad police commissioner asking why the police had taken her photographs, asking where they were kept and who would have access to them. When there was no response from the police, Masood sent a legal notice with the help of an NGO, the Internet Freedom Foundation, and then filed a public interest litigation. The first bench sought clarification from the Telangana government and the Hyderabad police commissioner, the state and the police on the propriety of using the technology and whether it violates one’s privacy while in public places.

After Stalin launched the technology in October 2021, a government statement said the facial recognition software could be used by police officers while on patrol or inspecting vehicles to quickly retrieve a person’s criminal record. The photo can be compared with lakhs of photos uploaded to the Crime and Criminal Tracking and Network System (CTNS): a project of the Union government to create a comprehensive and integrated system for effective policing through e-governance.

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