Update on our First Appeal regarding NITI Aayog's Facial Recognition Study

We had filed a first appeal against the RTI reply we received from NITI Aayog regarding their approval of a proposal to conduct a study on the use of Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) in India at a budget of Rs. 23.17 Lakhs. The Central Public Information Officer, in their reply to our RTI request, had failed to provide us with the minutes of the meeting during which the proposal was approved. See our previous post regarding the RTI request and the reply here.

We have received a reply to our appeal. The appellate authority has provided us the Minutes of the Meeting dated 18.10.2021 during which the proposal to conduct a study on FRT was presented to and approved by the NITI Aayog.

The meeting was chaired by the Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog, with the agenda being “Handbook for responsible facial recognition technologies in India: A case study for Digi Yatra”. The list of participants of the meeting can be seen below:

The Minutes of the Meeting reveal that the proposal to conduct this study was presented to the ‘Senior Management Committee/Research Evaluation Committee for consultancy by nomination’ of the NITI Aayog. The proposed study will consist of two parts - the first part, titled “A comparative overview of AI & FRT in India and the world”, will look at global best practices which may be adapted to Indian application, and the second part, titled “Responsible FRT usage in India: A handbook for the use of FRT using DigiYatra project”, will be a handbook of actionable recommendations that will serve as a generalized toolkit for future projects.

After the presentation, the Vice-chairman suggested the inclusion of information regarding the institutional arrangements that need to be made to use FRT and the authorities that would be permitted to use FRT. He further suggested the inclusion of the concerns raised by civil society organizations against FRT, and a “separate good section on why India needs FRT”.

The study was approved at a budget of 23.17 lakhs subject to certain conditions, one of them being the inclusion of a “separate section on why India needs FRT”.