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Admin 2020-12-31

(31 Dec 2020) Question-1

Q-1) Supreme court has in the Right to privacy case pointed out any limits to privacy can come only after a test of reasonableness. Is mass surveillance through Facial recognition in the interest of the society? Analyse its use from the point of view of internal security and the threats that it presents.
Approach Answer:
Introduction: K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (‘right to privacy case’) 2017, Supreme court admitted that Right to Privacy is a part of Right to life which is a fundamental right. However, it can be limited if the interest of the society outweighs right to personal liberty. 
It imported the test of reasonableness in Article 21 from reasonable restrictions of Article 19, in order to curb this right. It is a Triple Test which must follow the following criteria:

  • It must have an existence of a Law, i.e. it must be backed by a statue.
  • There must be a legitimate state interest.
  • Test of Proportionality: That the interest of the society must far outweigh the right to privacy which is curbed.

In order to judge the Facial recognition system's vitality we need to perform this Triple test of reasonability on it, by comparing its benefits and the threats that it presents.
Benefits of Mass surveillance using Facial Recognition System in the society: Better security an work automation.
Enhanced security: 

  • Helps in Policing: It make it easier to track down any burglars, thieves, or other trespassers etc. 
  • Maintaining internal Security: facial recognition can help identify terrorists or any other criminals with the help of the face scan only. 
  • Safer technology: It can't be hacked as there is nothing to steal or change, like in case of a password, for example.
  • Facial recognition can be used as a security tool for locking personal devices and for personal surveillance cameras.
  • Faster processing: The process of recognizing a face takes a second or less. It grants a quick and efficient verification of a person. In addition, it’s hard to fool this technology so this is another bonus.
  • Seamless integration: It is quite easily integrated. It does not require spending additional money on its integration and most facial recognition solutions are compatible with the majority of security software.

Automation of identification: 

  • Reduces human errors: security guards had to perform manual identification of a person that took too much time and did not boast high accuracy. The 3D facial recognition technology and the use of infrared cameras significantly boosted the level of accuracy of facial recognition and made it really hard to fool.
  • Financially more viable: employing humans for any purpose is always expensive
  • Incredibly accurate: identification process and not only takes seconds but is also incredibly accurate.

Threats emanating from Mass Surveillance using Facial recognition system:

  • Breach of Privacy: when integrated with CCTV systems the operator can know your exact whereabouts at every moment. This is akin to digital stalking. Principle of Consent is violated as the system is automated.
  • Civil-Political misuse: Example of China which keeps track of the activities of its citizens with such activities shows us the potential threats of such a system.
  • It has potential to threaten Civil liberties and democratic rights, 
  • It might be used to breach personal intimacies.
  • Vulnerability in recognition: No software is perfect, even  a slight change in the camera angle or even the change of appearance can inevitably lead to an error. This opens two problems: 
  • Problem of False Negative: Such a system is not a full proof. That is it is not a substitute of intelligence gathering as it is known to falter more often than known.
  • Issue of False Positive: Such a system can also wrongly identify a case leading to arbitrary arrests of a person un-associated with any crime.
  • Data Security: Misuse of data already stored is possible, such as theft of such data. Thus, data security is another problem.

If such threats persists then surely Mass Surveillance using Facial recognition is a threat to personal liberties, as it can breach our privacy, it can threaten civil, democratic and political rights. 
However, we can address these concerns using: 

  • Better regulations, 
  • Efficient data security infrastructure and 
  • Better legal and organizational structure ensuring accountability. 

Conclusion:  Given the economic and security benefits, that such technologies provide, if these solutions can address the concerns are addressed then this would surely pass the triple test of reasonableness. As this technology is now possible, it would be difficult to stop its usage indefinitely. Thus it is in the best interest of the society frame set of rules and organizational structure to regulate its inevitable adoption

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