Hyderabad police COVID-19 facial recognition legality

Occurred: May 2021

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Telangana state, India, faces court action for the allegedly illegal use of facial recognition by its police forces. 

The action is being taken by social activist SQ Masood, who alleges Hyderabad City Police had forced him to remove his mask while he was returning home from work during the COVID-19 in May 2021 pandemic so that they could take his photograph and verify his identity.

Backed by the Internet Freedom Foundation, the June 2021 notice claimed Masood's photographs were likely being fed into a facial recognition database. It also argued that state use of facial recognition 'is not backed by law, is unnecessary, disproportionate, and is being done without any safeguards to prevent misuse'.

Police denied using facial recognition in this instance, saying Masood's photograph was not scanned against any database and that facial recognition has only been used during the investigation of a crime or suspected crime. 

Telangana state is said to have amongst the highest density of CCTV cameras in the world, and boasts the most known government facial recognition projects in India. Amnesty International has accused Hyderabad of becoming a 'total surveillance city'.

Operator: Hyderabad City Police
Developer: NEC Technologies India
Country: India
Sector: Govt - police
Purpose: Reduce crime
Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Privacy; Surveillance; Dual/multi-use
Transparency: Governance; Complaints/appeals; Privacy

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: January 2022
Last updated: March 2023