Replies to Right to Information requests filed with the Delhi Police, the Kolkata Police and the Telangana State Technology Services shed light on how these public authorities are using their facial recognition technology systems.
In a reply dated November 25, 2020 to a Right to Information request filed on October 23, 2020 with reference no. DEPOL/R/E/20/07128, the Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police cum Public Information Officer: Crime has stated that they cannot share the requisite information about the facial recognition technology system being used by the Delhi Police u/s 8(d) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Since there is no S. 8(d) of the RTI Act, we assume that the PIO was referring to S. 8(1)(d) of the Act which states that:
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
This could mean that the system may be exploited in the future for some commercial use. It also means that certain commercial/proprietary rights may be vested with the third parties themselves. This calls into question the motivation of the company supplying the technology, in this case Innefu Labs Pvt. Ltd., who have access to the data collected by the Delhi Police. Since we do not have any information about any privacy protections put in place by the Delhi Police to protect the data of the citizens of Delhi, the concern that the data collected may be accessed by Innefu without the consent of the citizens to whom the data belongs and be processed further for commercial purposes arises.
In a reply dated November 18, 2020 to a Right to Information request (link; see page 25) dated July 30, 2020, the Office of the Commissioner, Kolkata Police has stated that that the information pertaining to their facial recognition technology system that we asked for relates to their Detective department and that the department was exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act u/s 24(4).
Section 24(4) of the RTI Act states that “certain organisations” such as intelligence and security organisations do not come under the purview of the act and can be exempted from disclosure if the government specifically exempts them by notification in the Official Gazette. This means that the Kolkata Police is using facial recognition technology without there being any avenue through which transparency and accountability can be demanded from them for their use of such an invasive technology.
Telangana State Technology Services (TSTS)
In a reply dated November 11, 2020 to a Right to Information request dated October 23, 2020 the Telangana State Technology Services has stated that the results of using facial recognition technology system for authentication of voters by the Telangana State Election Commission with an accuracy rate of 80% were satisfactory. They also stated that they had no plans to take any steps to improve the accuracy of the system.
Through Project Panoptic, we aim to bring transparency and accountability to public authorities who are developing and deploying facial recognition technology systems. You can visit the Project platform below!