Three years ago, the apex court of India recognized privacy as a fundamental right in a revolutionary judgment.
However, there are many grey areas left to address, such as the legality of data collection, in this case, biometric data collection without the user’s consent.
A popular cafe chain in India might have been exploiting the country’s lack of proper biometric laws. According to a recent tweet by Nikhil Pahwa, editor of MediaNama, Chaayos has been using facial recognition to bill its customers without their consent.
1. No terms&conditions displayed
2. Consent isn't real when there's no opt out option
3. We don't know if chaayos will sell this data/gives itself the right to
— Nikhil Pahwa (@nixxin) November 20, 2019
In the small clip posted by MediaNama, a user’s image can be seen on the cafe’s billing screen, however, it remains visible only for a few milliseconds.
Nikhil Pahwa told the BBC: “This is unnecessarily intrusive and there was no opt-out option, which is problematic.”
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When BBC reached out to Chaayos, the cafe chain was quick to defend its data collection process. “We are extremely conscious about our customer’s data security and privacy,” said the company.
The company also said that users can anytime opt-out of their facial recognition and instead use phone numbers while billing for products.
Meanwhile, Pahwa has claimed that facial recognition is a mandatory feature of the cafe’s loyalty program. However, his photo was stored, despite not being part of the program.
Interestingly, Chaayos terms and conditions clearly state that the user’s personal information will always remain private. Moreover, the information gathered from facial recognition constitutes the user’s consent.
According to Pahwa, users are not aware of the facial recognition system when complying with Chaayos’s terms and conditions, “so this is not informed consent.”
Since the incident, dozens of Twitter users have come forward describing a similar incident with the cafe chain, implying obliviousness to the cafe’s facial recognition system.