Just a day before the Municipal elections in Telangana, AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi on Tuesday objected to the facial recognition technology, which will be used by the Telangana State Election Commission (TSEC) to determine the identity of voters, and demanded its withdrawal.
The Election Commission had announced that it would be using the technology on a pilot basis in 10 polling booths in Kompally Municipality under the Medchal-Malkajgiri district, and claimed it was to 'weed out bogus voters'.
An additional polling officer equipped with the facial recognition application on a phone would take the photograph of a voter and upload to the server of facial recognition application and validate the voter with the picture submitted with voter id card application.
Taking strong exceptions to the TSEC's decision, the MP asked: “Have voters consented to being recorded when they enter a polling booth? What law permits the use of this technology? Are there any safeguards against breaches/misuse of the data?”
Expressing his dissent on Twitter, he added, “Right to privacy is a fundamental right and it cannot be violated so brazenly.”
The technology has been criticised before too with experts calling it 'profiling of voters'. Others have asked what the accuracy of the application was and how it was being used in a real election without doing pilot studies.
The AIMIM also gave a representation to the TSEC that by using facial technology, they are violating the Supreme Court guidelines.
The AIMIM in its letter said, “The use of facial recognition technology is being deployed without any statutory basis. Furthermore, no legitimate state aim is served by the deployment of such technology. If the aim is the detection of electoral fraud, then the State Election Commission must explain why the existing procedures for fraud detection are inadequate or how this technology will augment its efforts.”
Calling the use of facial recognition technology “unconstitutional” and a violation of the privacy of individuals, the letter added, “In the absence of any statutory procedure to seek consent from individuals, this procedure is fraught with constitutional irregularity. Furthermore, no statutory safeguards have been provided for how this data would be used or protected from misuse. Thereby, putting thousands of Indian citizens at risk of identity theft and violation of their privacy.”
The TSEC, on Saturday, announced that it would be using facial recognition technology in 10 polling booths. TSEC said that the use of technology was an additional measure, besides the regular measure of manual identification of voters by the polling officer.
On Wednesday, over 53 lakh voters would be exercising their voting rights in the urban local body elections to be held in 120 municipalities and nine municipal corporations. Polling would begin at 7 am and conclude at 5 pm in 7,961 polling stations in the state.