Telangana HC asks state to justify use of facial recognition technology

Hyderabad: The Telangana high court on Monday issued notices to the state and Hyderabad police commissioner, ordering them to respond to the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed over the use of Facial Recognition technology.

The bench comprising of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Abhinand Kumar Shavili sought the response from the state authorities, while hearing the PIL filed by a city-based social activist SQ Masood. The complaint alleged that in 2015 the traffic police stopped him and took his pictures without consent even though there were no cases against him in the past.

Masood’s lawyer K Manoj Reddy argued that the plaintiff had written a letter to the commissioner requesting the deletion of his pictures and figure prints from the police database, but it yielded no result. According to a report by the Times of India, Reddy said, “The continued use of Facial Recognition Technology by the police violates the privacy of individuals which was upheld by the Supreme Court’s Aadhaar judgment. The use of such technology without any authorisation from the law should be declared unconstitutional and illegal.”

In his petition, Masood stated that the state had been deploying agencies to implement Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) in Telangana. He cited news reports saying, that CCTV installation is a means to collect personal data. Speaking of the facial recognition technology, Justice Shavili said, “States in coordination with the Union home ministry are implementing crime and criminal tracking networking and systems (CCTNS) across the nation. The data they collect and the way they use, store or retain such information is not known to the public. It is used exclusively by the police and law-enforcing authorities.”

Masood stated that, the use of FRT is unlawful adding that there were no replies from the Hyderabad police to the RTIs he filed. In response to his PIL, the city Commissioner has been asked to show cause.