Updated: March 12, 2020 12:47:14 pm
At a time when the Personal Data Protection Bill is being examined by a Joint Parliamentary Committee, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told Lok Sabha on Wednesday that the authorities used facial recognition from Voter ID cards, driver licences, and other databases to identify that 300 people involved in the Delhi riots came from Uttar Pradesh.
Facial data is categorised as “sensitive personal data” under the current draft of the Personal Data Protection Bill. Significant changes to state powers were made by IT Ministry from a previous draft by Justice B N Srikrishna committee. The current draft states that the Centre can allow any agency to process personal data as long as it is “satisfied that it is necessary or expedient” for purposes such as “preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence”.
Addressing Lok Sabha, Shah said, “CCTV and video footage have been analysed in detail by 25 computers … through facial recognition software, we began to identify…This software doesn’t see religion, this software doesn’t see clothes. This software only sees faces.” The Home Minister said the software identified 1,100 people in all as having taken part in the violence.
He also said 60 social media accounts opened on February 22 and closed on February 26, after the riots ended. “Will they be able to escape just because they have closed their account? Wherever they are, we will find them….”
Shah also said that the people have sent Delhi Police “thousands of videos” of the riots.
The Indian Express reported in December that Delhi Police had acquired Automated Facial Recognition Software from Innefu Lab in March 2018 to identify missing children, but was now using the technology to identify protesters.
Sources said Delhi Police has so far created a photo dataset of over 1.5 lakh “history-sheeters” for routine crime investigation. Another dataset meant for monitoring sensitive public events has over 2,000 images of terror suspects and “rabble-rousers and miscreants”, said the sources.
Experts told The Indian Express that there are two types of facial recognition softwares — one called “one-to-one” and matches single face image to another image. The other type of software, “one-to-many”, involves finding a facial match from images of crowds and has a lower accuracy rate.
An earlier draft Bill prepared by the Justice B N Srikrishna committee had provided exemptions to the government for collecting such data for security, criminal investigations and crime prevention. It had, however, stipulated that these exceptions be authorised by a separate law and data collected only if it was “necessary for, and proportionate to” the government’s interests.
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