Facial recognition software is now an integral part of policing, globally. Last month, the police used its automated facial recognition system (AFRS) to screen crowds at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally on the citizenship law in Delhi. Mint analyses its features and scope.
What is the purpose of AFRS software?
AFRS is a software that recognizes, records and matches faces against various government databases from photos and videos taken from public and private sources. Its purpose is to find missing children, who may be recorded on CCTV; track criminals across a country; and in the case of Modi’s rally, recognize people who were likely to raise protest slogans at the rally, based on footage recorded from earlier protests. According to reports, people at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan had to pass through a metal detector, during which a camera captured a photo of their faces and scanned it against a database in a matter of seconds.
The police’s AFRS is different from the facial recognition systems used on smartphones. The latter is based on the ISO 19794-5 standard meant for consumer biometrics; the police’s software is more “restrictive", as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) document seeking proposals for the system. It measures facial features and uses the measure-ments to create a “template" to be matched against others, says an American Bar Association study. Law enforcement’s software is meant to work in various light conditions; detect make-up, plastic surgery or ageing; and work against sketches of subjects.
Can facial recognition technology be beaten?
A review of the London Metropolitan Police’s facial recognition system by academics from the University of Essex in July 2019 showed that the system had erred in 81% of the cases. However, law enforcement bodies worldwide have adopted the system, although there are enough reports for and against the software.
The NCRB document says AFRS should be able to check against various databases. Besides the criminal database, it mentions the passport database; the Aadhaar database that includes your photo may be used too. It mentions the Immigration, Visa and Foreigners’ Registration Tracking database, the ministry of women and child development’s Khoya-Paya and the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System. It can match a photo against many and compare one photo with another. The more the data, the better is the output.
What is the scope of India’s AFRS?
NCRB’s proposal clearly states that while a centralized web application will be hosted in the crime record bureau’s data centre in Delhi, it will be made available to “all police stations of the country". That means AFRS certainly stretches on a national scale. Furthermore, Delhi Police also required the software to work on Android, iOS and Windows platforms. “NCRB has already proposed the provision of mobile data terminals to each police station," states the proposal document.
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