Facial recognition used in India to enforce COVID policy

HYDERABAD, India (AP) — After two Islamist bombings rocked the south-central Indian city of Hyderabad in 2013, officials rushed to install 5,000 CCTV cameras to reinforce Security. They are now nearly 700,000 in and around the metropolis.

The most striking symbol of the city’s rise as a surveillance hotspot is the gleaming new command and control center in upmarket Banjara Hills. The 20-story tower replaces a campus where swarms of officers already had access to 24-hour real-time CCTV and cellphone data that geotags reported crimes. The technology triggers any available camera in the area, displays a database of criminals, and can combine images with facial recognition software to scan CCTV footage for known criminals nearby.

The Associated Press had rare access to operations earlier this year as part of an investigation into the proliferation of artificial intelligence tools used by law enforcement around the world.

Police Commissioner CV Anand said the new command center, inaugurated in August, encourages the use of technology in all departments, not just the police. It cost $75 million, according to Telangana State Police Chief Executive Mahender Reddy.

Facial recognition and artificial intelligence have exploded in India in recent years, becoming essential law enforcement tools for monitoring large gatherings.

The police don’t just use technology to solve murders or catch armed robbers. Hyderabad was among the first local police forces in India to use a mobile app to issue traffic fines and take photos of people displaying mask warrants. Officers can also use facial recognition software to scan images into a criminal database. Police officers have access to an app, called TSCOP, on their smartphones and tablets that includes facial recognition capabilities. The app also connects nearly every police officer in the city to a host of government and emergency services.

Anand said photos of traffic violators and mask-wearing violators are kept only long enough to make sure they are not needed in court and then deleted. He said he was surprised that any law-abiding citizen would oppose it.

“If we need crime control, we need oversight,” he said.

But questions remain over its accuracy and a lawsuit has been filed challenging its legality. In January, an official in Hyderabad scanned a journalist’s face to show how the facial recognition app worked. Within seconds, it returned five potential criminal matches to the statewide database. Three were men.

Hyderabad has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on patrol vehicles, CCTV cameras, facial recognition and geo-tracking apps and several hundred facial recognition cameras, among other technologies, Anand said. The investment has helped the state attract more private and foreign investment, he said, including Apple’s development center, which opened in 2016; and a major Microsoft data center announced in March.

“When these companies decide to invest in a city, they first look at the law and order situation,” Anand said.

He credited the technology for a rapid decrease in crime. Mugging for jewelry, for example, fell from 1,033 incidents a year to less than 50 a year after the deployment of cameras and other technology, he said.

Hyderabad’s trajectory is in line with that of the country. The nation’s National Crime Records Bureau is looking to build what could be one of the largest facial recognition systems in the world.

Steadily building on previous government efforts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have seized on the rise of surveillance technology since coming to power in 2014. His flagship Digital India campaign aims to revamp the country’s digital infrastructure to govern using information. Technology.

The government has promoted smart policing through drones, AI-enabled CCTV cameras and facial recognition. It’s a plan that has garnered support across the political spectrum and has seeped into states across India, said Apar Gupta, executive director of the New Delhi-based Internet Freedom Foundation.

“There’s also a lot of social and civic support – people don’t always fully understand,” Gupta said. “They see the technology and think that’s the answer.”

Jain is a former AP video reporter. Contact the AP Global Investigation Team at Investigative@ap.org or https://www.ap.org/tips/

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