How India Is Using Face Recognition Software for Missing Children to Identify Protesters

Published December 30th, 2019 - 12:13 GMT
How India Is Using Face Recognition Software for Missing Children to Identify Protesters (AFP)
Police crack down on protesters against new citizenship law in India (AFP)

Police in India are using footage captured at demonstrations to scan for "habitual protesters" using face recognition software, according to a report in The Indian Express. 

The country has witnessed widespread protests over a new controversial law that grants citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighboring countries but doesn't apply to Muslims. 

There are accounts that at least 25 people have been killed in clashes with police, who have also reportedly been filming protesters in the process. 

Authorities are being accused of running the footage through a facial recognition system to identify notable protesters and keep them out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally that took place on December 22, reported The Indian Express. 

According to unnamed sources cited by the newspaper, police had received information that there would be disruptions at the rally and used their video archive to analyze faces and behavior to identify suspects.

The software was originally acquired as a tool to identify and locate missing children but it appears that it's now being used to target activists that could be problematic for the state and the prime minister. 

If the allegations are true, this would mean that India has for the first time created a database of people's biometric data for purposes it had not publicized, sparking privacy concerns.

For some people, however, the surveillance capabilities seemed to lack credibility. 

But as facial recognition becomes a powerful tool for governments globally to use discretely, this might be an inevitable reality - with citizens even coming around to accept it. 

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