Facial Recognition Technology in India

Updated: Jul 19

This article is written by Sukanya Bhat a second-year law student (B.A.LL.B) from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad


Face recognition technology, which is based on artificial intelligence, uses biometric data to recognize a person based on their facial patterns. Biometric security includes facial recognition. Voice recognition, fingerprint recognition, and iris or retina recognition are all examples of biometric software. Although interest in other areas of application is developing, the technology is largely employed for security and law enforcement. Law enforcement agencies utilize facial recognition regularly. Technology is on the rise in law enforcement agencies in the United States, according to this NBC report, and the same is true in other countries. Detainees' mugshots are collected and compared to facial recognition databases at the municipal, state, and federal levels. Once a photo of an arrested person is taken, it is added to databases to be scanned each time the police conduct criminal searches. In addition to mobile facial recognition, officers can use smartphones, tablets, or other handheld devices to take a photo of a driver or pedestrian in the field and immediately compare that photo to one or more facial recognition databases to try the identification.

Benefits of Facial Recognition Technology

Following are the benefits of facial recognition technology are as follows:

1. Enhances Public Safety: Facial recognition makes it simple to track down crooks, robbers, and invaders. The system can check the power supply of both public and private CCTV camera networks. Criminals are not the only ones who can be tracked using technology. Missing children and the elderly, for example, would be easier to locate. Passengers may find facial recognition less obtrusive at airport security inspections.

2. Fast Identity Verification: Another advantage of face recognition technology is its speed of processing and the fact that it does not require any user interaction. Users must remember passwords, provide I.D. cards, and endure various difficulties with current identity verification systems. Companies can use facial recognition technology to gain access to facilities without having to wait in large lineups. Systems will one day be able to validate IDs without requiring anyone to do so. Physical security isn't the only application; cybersecurity is also included. Face recognition technology can be used by businesses to replace passwords for computer access.

3. Business Advantages: Queues are shorter: Long lines and delayed payments are a thing of the past, thanks to new personal payment technologies. Loss Prevention: Retailers face a significant problem with shoplifting. Consider what might happen if businesses could detect themes of interest as customers entered stores. To eliminate misidentification and bias, technology still has a long way to go, but the promise is there.

4. Increase customer loyalty by using a kiosk that recognizes consumers as they enter the store, points them in the appropriate direction, or provides recommendations based on their previous purchases. Comebacks and repeat purchases are boosted by more effective and personalized experiences.

5. Facial recognition research could one day allow computers to see and recognize objects and people in a way similar to humans. This opens up new possibilities for interaction.

The development of computer vision is essential for technologies such as autonomous cars to be profitable. In the future, we can hope that research in computer vision and facial recognition will generate more interest and more advancements.

Facial Recognition Technology: Breach of Privacy

Despite an understanding of what facial recognition technology entails, the potential of FTR is being widely explored in India, particularly for national security. It has been argued that the FTR restricts the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The government plans to establish a vast network of facial recognition technology, known as the automated facial recognition system. Their goal was to simplify the CCTV monitoring process by extracting facial biometric data from movies and comparing it to photos stored in a database. It has been used in numerous cases through investigative agencies. It has recently been used to locate protesters during CAA protests. If someone protests against the government, even peacefully, this technology will allow the government to record the details of all these people, which could lead to protesters addressing them individually. This will have a dissuasive effect on freedom of expression and the right to protest and the right to free movement under article 19. In the case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v Union of India[1] the Supreme Court ruled that even in public cases the right to privacy was a fundamental right. If this right is to be violated, the government must demonstrate that its actions are legally sanctioned, proportionate to the need for such interference, and have a legitimate objective. [2]

Regarding the legitimacy of AFRS, the IT Act of 2000 classifies biometric data as sensitive personal data and establishes rules for the collection, disclosure and sharing of such information. However, these only apply to "companies" and not the government's use of facial biometrics. This control is also unethical, as it requires the use of the FRT by citizens without their consent. Distrust in civil society also arises from the government's attempt to build this system without prior discussion or consultation on its effects.

[3]In its landmark Aadhaar ruling, although the Supreme Court rejected the justification of combating black money as the basis for mandatory linking of Aadhaar (Indian national biometric identification) to bank accounts, it was found that such a restriction was being imposed throughout the world. population, without any indication of misconduct on their part, this would constitute a disproportionate reaction. The Court's concern here clearly shows how the government can abuse AFRS.

Additionally, the accuracy of this technology is also unpredictable and may have unfavourable consequences during the investigation. Therefore, the use of AFRS without legitimate controls and deliberations will result in functional impairment in India with serious implications. The government must create an efficient legal framework and an independent oversight body to regulate the use of this technology and also to be accountable in the framework of governance.

Lack Of Accuracy

Ms Jain, who is currently working on Panopticon, a project to track the deployment and implementation of FRT projects in the country, said that this technology did not achieve 100% accuracy in finding matches.

“When the wrong system is installed, two things can happen. There may be a "false positive" when someone is recognized as someone they are not or a "false negative" where the system refuses to recognize the person as itself.

In the case of a "false positive", she gave an example of how the police use the FRT system to identify and arrest someone who is not the suspect. If a "false negative" result occurs when the government uses the FRT system to run its programs, it could result in the exclusion of many people from such government programs, Ms Jain added.[4]

Moreover, the FRT systems are being built without a legal framework. If caught by the police through the FRT system there is no legal framework under which you can question them.

According to a digital rights activist and a technology lawyer Ms Chaudhary-“Many cities and states in the United States have completely banned the use of facial recognition technology or put a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology. Companies like IBM and Microsoft have decided not to sell these technologies to law enforcement. Even Amazon has imposed a moratorium. In addition to being invasive, imprecise and unregulated, facial recognition technology has been used uncompromisingly by law enforcement agencies against blacks In India, we don't have any laws to protect people, there are no guardrails for the use of data by private players or governments. We hear various reports of police abuse even without the help of technology. Facial recognition is the perfect form of surveillance that builds tyrannical societies. It automates discriminatory policing and will exacerbate existing injustices in our criminal justice system.”


While biometrics is widely regarded as one of the most reliable authentication methods, it also carries significant dangers. This is because if a person's credit card information is hacked, that person will have the opportunity to freeze their balance and take the necessary steps to change the personal information that has been violated. With facial recognition software still in development, the laws in this area continue to evolve (and sometimes don't exist). Ordinary citizens whose information has been compromised have relatively few legal options. Cybercriminals often bypass the authorities or are convicted years after the crime, while their victims receive no compensation and are left to their own devices. As facial recognition spreads, there is the potential for facial information to grow to commit fraud. A complete cybersecurity package is a must to protect privacy and security online.

[1] K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v Union of India, WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 494 OF 2012 [ India] [2] https://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/use-of-facial-recognition-technology-in-india-a-function-creep-breaching-privacy/ [3] https://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/use-of-facial-recognition-technology-in-india-a-function-creep-breaching-privacy/ [4] https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/facial-recognition-technology-law-yet-to-catch-up/article33458380.ece

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