The Telangana government will be testing voter identification through a face recognition application on a pilot basis in the municipal elections of January 23. This will be the first time that face recognition software will be used to ascertain the identity of voters.
The pilot will be implemented in Kompally Municipality in Medchal Malkajgiri district for 10 polling stations (Nos. 13, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 31 and 32). An Additional Polling Officer will click pictures of the voter and the identity card submitted by her on a mobile phone with the facial recognition app, and send it to the Telangana State Technology Services (TSTS). After matching, the result will be sent back to the mobile phone.
Even if the result is negative, however, the person will be allowed to vote based on the prescribed process of identification using their ID card. “The normal duties of polling personnel will be intact, and there will be no deviation because of implementation of face recognition application in the polling station,” an official said.
In a circular issued on Saturday, Telangana State Election Commission Secretary M Ashok Kumar said since impersonation and bogus voting often leads to repolling, facial recognition was being tested to authenticate the identity of voters. The announcement was made under the head, “Face Recognition Application — Method of voter verification at polling stations using real-time authentication capabilities through a mobile phone using latest technologies from Artificial Intelligence, Big data, Machine Learning and Deep learning on Pilot Basis”.
Elaborating, an official said: “The First Polling Officer who is in charge of voter identification, is required to perform many transactions, because of which there is little opportunity for that officer to even look at the face of the voter and compare with the ID card or photo in the electoral rolls. In this background, the proposal of the TSTS, which is using facial recognition technology to validate the identity of pensioners, is considered an appropriate tool to bring objectivity to voter identification work.
“However, this technology is proposed as an additional tool to validate the identity of the voter in addition to the existing procedures prescribed, such as employing the First Polling Officer as identification officer, use of photo electoral rolls, insistence on a photo ID proof in addition to the personal scrutiny by polling agents appointed by the contesting candidates.”
The official said that “it will be ensured that the photographs are not stored or used for any other purpose”, and would be erased from both the mobile phones used in the polling stations and the TSTS server. TSTS will give an undertaking to this effect before the pilot is implemented.
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