Delhi policewomen gather outside the Uttar Pradesh Bhawan (state house) before a demonstration against the crackdown on protesters in Uttar Pradesh state, over India's new citizenship law, in New Delhi on December 26, 2019.
Delhi policewomen gather outside the Uttar Pradesh Bhawan (state house) before a demonstration against the crackdown on protesters in Uttar Pradesh state, over India's new citizenship law, in New Delhi on December 26, 2019.
Photo by AFP

After the Uttar Pradesh government decided to identify protestors and seal their properties to reimburse losses, the Delhi police have resorted to using the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) software to identify CAA and NRC protestors.

The police used the software during various protests to screen the crowd at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally held at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi. The police then ran the footage through the software to identify “law and order suspects.”

The police had acquired the AFRS software in early March 2018 to find and found boys and girls by matching photos. The software has only been used thrice, twice for the Independence parade and once during the Republic day protest, reported The Indian Express.

According to the paper’s sources, the Delhi police has created a database of almost 1.5 lakh “history-sheeters” for routine crime investigation.

The Delhi Police has been filming the CAA and NRC protests for some time now. The footage acquired are now being used to extract ‘identifiable faces’. The extracted faces will then be manually screened to pick out ‘habitual protesters’ and ‘rowdy elements’.

The first use of ‘selected protestors’ was used at PM Modi’s rally in Delhi last week. A police officer involved with the security arrangements at Pm’s rally told the paper, “Each attendee at the rally was caught on camera at the metal detector gate and live feed from there was matched with the facial dataset within five seconds at the control room set up at the venue.”

In an email reply to the paper concerning the issue, the Delhi police spokesperson said, “Any FRS (facial recognition software) would hold its utility only if the related database was qualitatively and quantitatively substantial. The initial focus was on security-related aspects of the Independence Day and Republic Day arrangements, achieved by building up-to-date datasets of terror suspects etc.”

The person added, “In the next stage, we focused on law and order also and accordingly expanded the datasets to those with known criminal records of relevant categories and also to law and order suspects, identified through extensive archival videography and behaviour analysis at sensitive public protest venues. We have used these datasets last Sunday based on credible intelligence inputs about possible disruptions.”

When asked about the possible misuse of the data, the spokesperson said that the Delhi police ensure best industry-standard checks and balances to avoid any kind of potential misuse of data. The person also added, “Such datasets are not perpetual and are revised periodically. Racial or religious profiling is never a relevant parameter while building these datasets.”

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