Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

UPSC Civils Daily Mains Question 12th April 2020

Though various countries like the USA and EU are temporarily banning Facial recognition technologies, India has been rushing to adopt this technology.  What is the need for the Automated Facial Recognition System? Discuss various challenges involved in it. How Facial recognition is the need of the hour for India?


Facial recognition is a biometric technology that uses distinctive features of the face to identify and distinguish an individual. Facial recognition has become a cause for concern mainly in western democracies. European Commission is considering imposing a five-year moratorium on the use of facial recognition technologies in the European Union (EU). The United States municipalities are also passing rules for its prohibition.

Facial recognition techniques in India:

  • Facial recognition systems have been made active at several major Indian airports, including Delhi airport, installed under DigiYatra Initiative.
  • Telangana’s Election Commission recently piloted a facial recognition app in its civic elections to address the issue of voter impersonation.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has released a request proposal for an Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) to be used by police officers across the country.

Automated Facial Recognition System

Automated Facial Recognition System can play a very vital role in crime prevention and criminal identification and verification (identifying criminals, missing people, and unidentified dead bodies) by facilitating easy recording, analysis, retrieval and sharing of information between different organizations.

Need for AFRS:

  • Automated Facial Recognition System can play a very vital role in improving outcomes in the area of Criminal identification and verification by facilitating easy recording, analysis, retrieval and sharing of Information between different organizations.
  •  It is used for identification and authentication purposes with a success rate of almost 75%
  • While fingerprints and iris scans provide far more accurate matching results, automatic facial recognition is an easier solution especially for identification amongst crowds.
  • The integration of fingerprint database, face recognition software and iris scans will massively boost the police department’s crime investigation capabilities.
  • It will also help civilian verification when needed. No one will be able to get away with a fake ID.
  • It is increasingly being used for everything from unlocking of mobile phones to validating the identity, from auto-tagging of digital photos to finding missing persons, and from targeted advertising to law enforcement.
  • It also plans to offer citizen services, such as passport verification, crime reporting, online tracking of case progress, grievance reporting against police officers etc.

Challenges involved in Facial recognition technology: 

  • Infrastructural Costs: Technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Big Data are costly to implement. The size of stored information is extremely large and requires huge network & data storage facilities, which are currently not available in India.
  • Source from which the images will be collected needs to be known.
  • Required Expertise: The collected data from social media profiles where anybody can put anybody’s image, puts to risk the authenticity of the data. Hence, experts are needed to verify such details before storing them who should be provided proper training to protect & avoid abuse and misuse of the collected data & database.
  • Inherent Challenges: One of the challenging tasks to overcome is the variations in the facets over the time for example, somebody has grown a beard, or the age has changed from the last taken photo. However, it is claimed that such things are taken care of by the software, making it one of the best ways to recognize a person.
  • Right to Privacy: Although the Government plans to address the question of privacy through the legal framework, the constitutional mandate of right to privacy needs to be safeguarded along with the nature of technology, addressing the fears of invasion & surveillance.
  • Cyber experts across the world have cautioned against government abuse of facial recognition technology, as it can be used as a tool of control and risks inaccurate results.

Need of the hour:

  • In India, where there are just 144 constables per 1 lakh citizens, this can act as a force multiplier as it neither requires too much manpower nor regular upgradation.
  • Having the biggest IT workforce in the world, the state-of-the-art technology can act as a game-changer for India if properly safeguarded
  • A deliberative approach will benefit Indian law enforcement, as police departments around the world are currently learning that the technology is not as useful in practice as it seems in theory.

Parliament should also make a “data protection” statute that regulates the sale and transfer in commerce of behavioural information about individuals that does not meet technical standards of safety and appropriateness of acquisition. It is only then that a democracy can safely begin to adopt technologies that, unregulated as they presently are, can corrode and destroy the very fabric of human freedom.

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