India is planning to set up world’s largest facial recognition system for policing similar to what is deployed in China. The Indian government has extended the date to invite bids for companies which will help in creating a central repository of surveillance data.
The bids will open next month and the selected company will be responsible for equipping India’s notorious police force with a centralized facial recognition data that will be linked with citizens’ passports, fingerprints, and other records.
India has one of the most understaffed police forces, with just one police officer available for 724 citizens. It is well below the global standards of police force per citizen.
The project puts the already deteriorating standards of cybersecurity in the country in jeopardy. There have been multiple instances of data leaks pertaining to Aadhar card – a unique identification code for Indian citizens. The country does not have a structured cybersecurity policy in place and the deployment of facial recognition surveillance system would further risk the privacy.
According to the documents obtained by the Internet Freedom Foundation after a right to information request, many unidentified companies asked for clarity about the project from the government. The companies have sought answers to questions like whether the facial recognition system should be able to identify people with plastic surgery and the database should be integrated with the already existing state database.
Atul Rai, CEO of Staqu Technologies, an Indian startup offering AI-based tools, says that most Indian companies will not be able to participate in the bidding as the tender states that the facial recognition system must be in line with the standards set by the U.S. National Institute of Science and Technology.
It is a long way to go for India before it develops a mass surveillance system as advanced as China. Before that, the country needs to ensure that it has proper laws in place to safeguard such a large database and infrastructure to make the most out of the facial recognition technology.