Facial recognition surveillance systems are growing rapidly across India’s northern border

A thorough analysis of the government’s intentions regarding biometric surveillance in India indicates that the country’s obsession with intelligence is floating over the Himalayas from Xinjiang, China.

Looking at a pair of recent central government tenders for CCTV systems, MediaNama, an Indian technology policy publication, broadens its perspective to include many similar local government tenders.

MediaNama, it is clarified in the analysis, is not a fan of the proposals, at least without national legislation laying down rules for privacy. There are reasons for skepticism, including the fact that the Indian police use algorithms set to an 80% match confidence threshold.

Through its engineering agency Telecommunications Consultants India, the Central Government’s Department of Telecommunications is inviting tenders for the turnkey construction of a 548-site CCTV network and control center in the nerve territories of Jammu and Kashmir administered by India.

It is no coincidence that the region would be at the forefront of any war between India and Pakistan – two nuclear powers – over a frozen piece of land disputed between them.

Awiros’ facial and object recognition software is specified in the call for tenders.

Likewise, the territory’s police agency announced bits on a new 200-camera surveillance network backed by facial biometrics. It would integrate with existing surveillance infrastructure, including 400 cameras, in the region, according to MediaNama information.

Police want facial recognition cameras in markets, bazaars, schools, offices, public transport hubs and border outposts. The department’s wish list includes coverage of all roads. Public servants’ purchases have been relatively small, bidding one after another over the years.

Two years ago, India started building CCTV networks at 11 railway stations linking a number of regions and territories, including the territories of Jammu and Kashmir.

Next, Jammu and Kashmir police officials want to activate a facial recognition system that stores the information of 10,000 people. According to MediaNama, they want to be able to blacklist and whitelist. Blacklisted individuals would trigger alerts when they show up.

Other tenders have been launched by governments in Odisha, in the Bay of Bengal; Nagaland, on the Myanmar border; the extreme east of Meghalaya.

That’s a lot of systems, and this tally only includes the northernmost edge of the country. There are no standards governing data access, MediaNama reports, no standard prohibitions for the misuse of data, and no formal regulatory framework.

Autocratic China has plenty of that, though all of that can be dispensed with a wave in Beijing.

Article topics

biometrics | data privacy | facial recognition | government purchases | India | call for tenders | video surveillance

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