The Telangana High Court has issued a notice to the state government on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed over the use of facial recognition in the state. The petition, filed by Hyderabad-based activist SQ Masood with the support of the Internet Freedom Foundation, had argued that deploying facial recognition technology by the state was not backed by law, and is unnecessary and disproportionate and without any safeguards. The case will be taken up after the court resumes after vacation.
In May 2021, the activist had sent a legal notice to the Commissioner of Police of Hyderabad after he was stopped on May 19 by police officers when he was returning home from work. In the legal notice, Masood said that he had been asked to remove his mask in order to take his picture despite there being a large number of COVID-19 cases. When he refused, his picture was taken anyway. He stated that he was in compliance with all rules. He did not receive an answer from the police commissioner.
He then filed a public interest litigation in the court against the state of Telangana and the Commissioner of Police stating that the use of facial recognition technology restricts a citizen’s right to privacy without complying with applicable law. It added that the objective of using facial recognition technology was unclear. It added that there are no procedural safeguards to protect from misuse and ensure that the data collected is used properly.
“Currently, the police in Telangana have complete discretion in who to deploy FRT on and where to deploy FRT, apart from covertly capturing photographs through CCTV cameras,” the petition said, according to IFF.
It also said that the use of facial recognition technology in Telangana is not for a specific purpose but is used for mass surveillance, and that the state must show probable cause.
The activist’s lawyer argued that the use of facial recognition technology violates the right to privacy.
In November, Amnesty International called Hyderabad as being on the brink of a “total surveillance city” and pointed out to the Command and Control Centre that wants to connect the “state’s vast facial recognition-capable CCTV infrastructure in real time”. It also has the most facial recognition technology projects in India.