Video Summary

[RSTV The Big Picture] Facial Recognition – Uses & Concerns

Indian government is rushing to adopt public facial recognition in view to enhance security and modernizing police. The plan raises several questions in the backdrop when the European Commission is considering imposing a five-year moratorium (temporary prohibition) on the use of facial recognition technologies.
By IT's Video Summary Team
March 04, 2020


  • Introduction
  • What is Facial recognition?
  • Indian Scenario
  • Benefits of Facial recognition
  • Arguments against Facial recognition
  • Questions Raised
  • Way Forward
  • Conclusion

Facial Recognition – Uses & Concerns

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The Indian government is preparing to install a nationwide facial recognition system, but the plan draws criticism from rights activists and technology experts who warn of the risks to privacy and increased surveillance.

What is Facial recognition?

  • Facial recognition is a biometric technology that uses distinctive features on the face to identify and distinguish an individual.
  • From the first cameras that could recognise faces in the mid-1960s up to now, facial recognition has evolved in many ways — from looking at 3D contours of a face to recognizing skin patterns.
  • With machine learning, the technology has become capable of sorting out types of faces.

Indian Scenario:

  • India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) — a government agency operating under the country’s Home Ministry has recently gathered bids from private companies to create the nation’s first centralized facial recognition surveillance system.
  • As per the NCRB, it is an effort in the direction of modernizing the police force, information gathering, criminal identification, verification and its dissemination among various police organizations and units across the country.
  • Facial recognition systems have been already active at several major Indian airports, including the Delhi airport.
  • These systems at airports have been installed under the DigiYatra initiative.
  • Telangana’s election commission piloted a facial recognition app in its civic elections on January 22, and claimed that it could address the issue of voter impersonation.

Benefits of Facial recognition:

1. Enhanced security:

  • The first thing facial recognition offers is surveillance. With the help of facial recognition, it will be easier to track down anti-social elements, criminals, or other trespassers.
  • It can help identify terrorists or any other criminals with the help of the face scan.

2. Faster processing:

  • The process of recognizing a face takes a second or less — and this is incredibly beneficial for the agencies like Airport etc.
  • In the era of constant cyber-attacks and advanced hacking tools, companies need a technology that would be both secure and fast.
  • Considering that facial recognition is almost instant, it grants a quick and efficient verification of a person.

3. Seamless integration:

  • The facial recognition technology can be easily integrated in various government schemes to avoid duplicity.
  • It does not require spending additional money on its integration and most facial recognition solutions are compatible with the majority of security software.

4. Largely accurate:

  • The 3D facial recognition technology and the use of infrared cameras significantly boosted the level of accuracy of facial recognition and made it difficult to dupe the agencies.

Arguments against Facial recognition:

1. Breach of privacy:

  • The technology can be used to actually track down people anytime, anywhere.
  • The question of ethics and privacy is the most critical one. The countries globally are infamous for storing a certain number of the citizens’ facial data without their consent.
  • So even though facial recognition indeed brings benefits, there is still lot to be done before the technology is 100% used fairly and in accordance with human rights for privacy.

2. Vulnerability in recognition:

  • Facial recognition technology is indeed very accurate but it is not full-proof.
  • A slight change in the camera angle or even the change of appearance will inevitably lead to an error, which can be exploited by criminals.
  • In the case, it raises question regarding the authenticity of using it as an evidence in criminal courts.

3. Massive data storage:

  • Machine learning technology requires massive data sets to “learn” in order to deliver accurate results and such data sets require a powerful data storage.
  • India at present is heavily dependent on foreign countries for their servers and cloud computing. This raises the concern regarding third party use of Indian citizens’ data.

Questions Raised:

As the government pushes for the plan to take the facial recognition plans forward, the following questions are imminent and need a satisfactory answer from the government.

  • What are the sources from which the images will be collected to create a huge database or repository?
  • What kind of relationship these private entities (Providing face data) will have with the security agencies and will the terms and conditions for the data usage will be transparent?
  • What would be the safeguards available to assure the integrity of the database so that it doesn’t leak out or is privatized or monetized?
  • What would be the admissibility or standards that will be applied to the evidences in Criminal Courts, keeping in mind that these technologies are not full-proof?
  • Since, till date India uses foreign servers for data storage, will India be able to protect the National and individual interests regarding Data privacy and fair use?

Way Forward:

  • Start implementing facial recognition on pilot basis.
  • Controlled exercise initially for sensitive cases.
  • Reduce dependency on cloud computing and servers on China, US etc.
  • Capacity building and developing India specific model.
  • Evaluate strengths and weaknesses before a nationwide project.
  • Start Indigenization of Critical technology to store sensitive data.
  • Need for Training manpower and sensitization.
  • Develop proper safeguards to tackle privacy concerns.


  • There is a need for developing a legal framework to address the issues of privacy and other concerns to rule out the possibility of speculations and fear instilled in the minds of citizens regarding the use of the data for other purposes more than stated. India should definitely go forward with adopting the use of the technology by gauging all dimensions exhaustively.
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