Is India prepared to tackle misuse of face recognition technology?

Is India prepared to tackle misuse of face recognition technology?
Highlights

While the usage of facial recognition technology is growing across the world, the absence of any data protection and data privacy law in India makes the country illprepared to deal with the misuse of the technology, experts said on Friday

While the usage of facial recognition technology is growing across the world, the absence of any data protection and data privacy law in India makes the country ill-prepared to deal with the misuse of the technology, experts said on Friday.

"There is no legal mechanism to stop misuse of facial recognition technology in India," Pavan Duggal, one of the nation's top cyber law experts, told IANS, adding that the Information Technology Act does not specially deal with misuse of this technology.

There is also not any blanket ban on the use of this technology, perhaps because of the benefits that could accrue from the proper usage of the technology that dramatically cuts down the amount of time needed for identifying people or objects in photos and video. In April last year, for example, Delhi Police could identify almost 3,000 missing children in just four days during a trial of a facial recognition system.

While the benefits of the technology for law enforcement agencies in fighting crime and identifying missing people and also for the industry for business purposes cannot be denied, it is the misuse of the technology that can put the citizens of the country in trouble. "The first casualty of the absence of regulatory framework for facial recognition technology is people's right to privacy," Duggal said.

"In India, there is not even any framework to regulate the storage of facial recognition data. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the situation and they are making such data available on the Dark Net," he added. Some of the major technology giants including Microsoft and Amazon also agree that there is a need for governments to regulate this technology.

In a blog post in December 2018, Microsoft President Brad Smith pointed out that certain uses of this technology can increase the risk of biased decisions and outcomes, intrusions into people's privacy and also encroach on democratic freedoms if the technology is used for mass surveillance.

While defending its own facial recognition technology Rekognition, saying there has been not a single report of misuse of the technology by law enforcement, Amazon Web Services (AWS) on Friday said it also supports the creation of a legislative framework covering facial recognition through video and photographic monitoring on public or commercial premises.

In India, Duggal said, anybody can misuse this technology without fears of facing any adverse legal consequences. "Here law has not been able to protect the citizen," he said, adding that self-regulation of facial recognition will not be effective. "The quicker we are able to provide effective legal mechanism to regulate facial recognition technology, better it is for the country and its citizens," Duggal added.

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