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AFRS (Automated Facial Recognition System)

  Jul 09, 2020

AFRS (Automated Facial Recognition System)

What is AFRS software and its purpose?

AFRS is a software that recognizes, records and matches face against various government databases from photos and videos taken from public and private sources. Its purpose is 

  1. to find missing children, who may be recorded on CCTV; 
  2. track criminals across a country; 

Currently, the leading face recognition software are:

  1. Amazon Rekognition
  2. Microsoft Face API
  3. Google Cloud Vision
  4. IBM Watson Visual Recognition

What is need of AFRS to India?

This is an effort in the direction of modernizing the police force, information gathering, criminal identification, verification and its dissemination among various police organizations and units across the country. The beneficiaries will be Ministry of Home Affairs, NCRB and state police forces. Benefits include:

  1. A robust system for identifying criminals, missing children /persons, unidentified dead bodies and unknown traced children/persons all over the country; 
  2. A repository of photographs of criminals in the country; 
  3. Enhanced ability to detect crime patterns and modus operandi across the states and communicate to the state police departments for aiding in crime prevention. 
  4. With the help of the software, the state police personnel can check the suspect with the hotlist of criminals.

Outstanding results

In April 2018, Delhi Police identified almost 3,000 missing children in just four days during a trial of a facial recognition system.

What are the concerns with AFRS?

  1. The first casualty of the absence of regulatory framework for facial recognition technology is people's right to privacy. In India, there is not even any framework to regulate the storage of facial recognition data.
  2. The use of facial recognition technology by a government for mass surveillance can encroach on democratic freedoms.
  3. Reliability issues, it depends on quantum of data, state of data readiness of India.

Incident in Delhi

  1. It is alleged that recent use of technology on Delhi protestors lacks legitimacy and threatens people’s right to dissent and privacy. 
  2. Internet Freedom Foundation wrote to the secretary for the Ministry of Home Affairs demanding a complete halt and recall of the AFRS, saying that the technology is an act of mass surveillance and is completely illegal.

What is reliability of system?

A review of the London Metropolitan Police’s facial recognition system by academics from the University of Essex in July 2019 showed that the system had erred in 81% of the cases. However, law enforcement bodies worldwide have adopted the system, although there are enough reports for and against the software. Accuracy and hence reliability depend on amount of data more the data more accuracy.

Which databases does AFRS have access to?

The NCRB document says AFRS should be able to check against various databases.

  1. Besides the criminal database, it mentions the passport database; 
  2. The Aadhaar database that includes your photo may be used too. 
  3. It mentions the Immigration, Visa and Foreigners’ Registration Tracking database, 
  4. The ministry of women and child development’s Khoya-Paya 
  5. The National Automated Fingerprint Identification System. 

It can match a photo against many and compare one photo with another. The more the data, the better is the output.