Problems with Facial Recognition Systems Operating in a Legal Vacuum


Even neighbourhoods are capturing all passers-by facial and other CCTV footage. I can accept that by-laws of housing societies can somehow do this, but is this legal for a public street? Can the neighbourhood watch blatantly spy on you?

cc @aparatbar


Thanks for letting us know. According to us none of this is legal as per a constitutional reading of the right to privacy judgement. But here is the thing - the judgement won’t enforce by itself. We need to positively push for surveillance reform which will include specific limits on public authorities and private persons from conducting such surveillance without an enabling legal infrastructure.

For facial recognition by public authorities, we are building out a case for a moratorium.


A new directive seems to have been made which allows running facial recognition for identification of missing children and criminals:

I don’t think there is any other way than mass surveillance to achieve the above two goals in their complete sense. Authorities are sure to misuse under the disguise and specially “identification of criminals”. Also, the provision of “forget me” once the term is over should be there. But I believe the identification would persist beyond their time under the pretext of likelihood of committing the crime again. State would not like to forget.

The onus of solving law and order problems is being moved to tech rather than improving the organisations which can do better.

Thanks Neeraj. This is our sense as well. We are in the process of building an entire project on facial recognition. A lot of this work is being done by @Devdutta and @Anushka


Hey, could you elaborate? Project as in?..

We are moving from planning to execution stages. The project scope is initially to bring greater transparency and provide a comprehensive view of all facial recognition projects in India and track their deployments. The timeline for execution is 2 months and we will be able to provide further details and clarity by June, 2020. In the meanwhile our public advocacy on this issue will continue.