Will Facial Recognition Amplify Security At Indian Railway Stations?

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The facade of the Indian transport system has slowly been evolving. The privatization of air travel has diversified how Indians travel. The Indian Railways too has been expanding its offering; including redesigning the stations, free Wi-Fi, and much more. The railway has now brought in facial recognition systems to improve the safety and security of passengers.

Facial Recognition In Indian Railways
 

Facial Recognition In Indian Railways

We know that a lot of criminal activities take place on trains and railway stations like pick pocketing, robbery to name a few. Crowded stations are a favorite spot for criminals to pick on prime targets for mishaps. The Indian Railways is trying to uplift the security at railways stations by implementing facial recognition systems with artificial intelligence to help identify and nab criminals.

Facial Recognition Systems

The Indian Railways isn't the first one to introduce facial recognition systems. Back in July 2019, Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International Airport brought in a facial recognition system as an experiment for passengers. The passengers were identified by their biometric and facial features, surpassing the need for a boarding pass and other identity documents.

Taking inspiration, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) has been working on facial recognition systems as well. Here, the systems will be linked with the existing databases such as the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) to identify criminals on railway stations. It would be a major breakthrough in the Indian security system if the RPF manages to pull this through.

Privacy, Human Rights Concerns
 

Privacy, Human Rights Concerns

When the airport authorities introduced the facial recognition system at the Hyderabad airport, there were human rights groups, internet activists, and others protesting against it. They argued that the system came with potential privacy violations and increased surveillance. The RPF fears that similar concerns will be raised for facial recognition in Indian Railways.

On the other hand, India is also a prime target for various terrorist activities. The Railways Protection Force began comprehensively planning for enhanced security measures after the deadly 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. So far, nearly 200 railway stations have been identified and marked for a security overhaul.

Facial Recognition System Capabilities

Facial Recognition System Capabilities

And so, the facial recognition technology for security began at the Bangalore station. Such technologies are capable of identifying single faces out of tens of thousands. The facial recognition systems are enabled with a unique biometric code where each face is captured with AI. The data is used as a comparison to other biometrics like fingerprints and iris recognition systems.

Indian Railways To Enhance Security

RPF at the Bangalore station conducted the facial recognition system test for five months. More than 200,000 passengers were covered and the algorithm could match 32 history-sheeters against the RPF database. Even people wearing hoodies, sunglasses, hats, and other accessories were also easily identifiable at rush hours.

But the privacy concerns are likely to arise again. Trak.in reports that there is no legal authority or framework for such sensitive projects that are being tested and deployed in India. For now, they've been declared as illegal. The Supreme Court notes that a legislative framework is necessary for such projects as there's the question of the citizen's right to privacy.

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