The Indian government has played down fears of mass surveillance in response to concerns that its proposed facial recognition system lacks adequate oversight.

Replying to a legal notice filed by the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), a Delhi-based non-profit that works on digital liberties, the country’s National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) defended the move, stating it doesn’t interfere with privacy of citizens as it “only automates the existing police procedure of comparing suspects’ photos with those listed in LEA’s [Law Enforcement Agency] databases.”

It also dismissed concerns of misidentification and discriminatory profiling, and said the project will only be used to identify missing people and unidentified dead bodies.

The need for facial recognition

The move comes after NCRB opened bids from private companies in June to help develop a facial recognition system — dubbed National Automated Facial Recognition System (NAFRS) — that would allow law enforcement to match people of interest against an existing database of facial images.

“This would greatly facilitate the investigation of crime and detection of criminals and provide information for easier and faster analysis,” the tender document said.

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