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Delhi Police says only criminal records retained from use of facial recognition

The police are keeping criminal records only, which they are within their rights to do (MINT_PRINT)Premium
The police are keeping criminal records only, which they are within their rights to do (MINT_PRINT)

  • The Delhi Police had earlier started using its facial recognition software, acquired in 2017 to track missing children and persons, to screen crowds
  • The software, made by Delhi-based Innefu Labs is capable of screening faces from social media as well, as founder Tarun Wig had explained to Mint in an earlier interaction

In a reply to a right to information request filed by Mint, the Delhi Police confirmed that it doesn’t use photos from social media to screen crowds and only faces of criminals are retained in its databases.

The Delhi Police had earlier started using its facial recognition software, acquired in 2017 to track missing children and persons, to screen crowds. The software, made by Delhi-based Innefu Labs is capable of screening faces from social media as well, as founder Tarun Wig had explained to Mint in an earlier interaction.

The reports also raised questions amongst people on whether their faces were being entered into databases and whether it meant that the police and other authorities could track them as and when they wanted.

Our RTI had four questions,

What databases does Delhi Police match face data against?

Answer: Identification of missing children/persons and UIDB.

When police takes face data of citizens, is that data simply matched against databases or is it kept for future use?

Answer: Criminals as per Identification of Criminals Act

How does police acquire face data about citizens?

Answer: As per the request received from kith and kinnes of victims and Identification of Prisoners Act.

Are social media websites used for matching face data as well?

Answer: No

In answering the first two questions, the police said that its face data is matched against the missing children/persons databases and the unidentified dead bodies (UIDB) database. However, in its answer to the second question, the public information officer wrote “Criminals as per Identification of Criminals Act".

According to Supreme Court lawyer, N.S. Nappinai, that should mean that the police are keeping criminal records only, which they are within their rights to do. However, Nappinai also questioned the use of facial recognition to screen citizens, saying there’s no “reasonable cause" for them to use such tools. Further, if citizen data isn’t being retained, then why would Delhi Police not clearly say that in the RTI, she said.

Police departments in India have been using facial recognition tools for a few years now. However, as explained in an earlier story by Mint, the country has no regulations against it. Facial recognition tools being used by law enforcement authorities have been questioned worldwide, with some even banning the use of such software or issuing moratoriums on them.

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