Delhi Police’s use of facial recognition technology


Right to Information (RTI) responses received by the Internet Freedom Foundation, a New-Delhi based digital rights organisation, reveal that the Delhi Police treats matches of above 80% similarity generated by its facial recognition technology (FRT) system as positive results.

Current scenario: use of FRT by Delhi Police:

  • Delhi Police first obtained FRT for the purpose of tracing and identifying missing children. According to RTI responses received from the Delhi Police, the procurement was authorised as per a 2018 direction of the Delhi High Court in Sadhan Haldar vs NCT of Delhi. However, in 2018 itself, the Delhi Police submitted in the Delhi High Court that the accuracy of the technology procured by them was only 2% and “not good”.
  • Things took a turn after multiple reports came out that the Delhi Police was using FRT to surveil the anti-CAA protests in 2019. Delhi Police has consequently used FRT for investigation purposes and also specifically during the 2020 northeast Delhi riots, the 2021 Red Fort violence, and the 2022 Jahangirpuri riots.
  • The widening of the purpose for FRT use clearly demonstrates an instance of ‘function creep’ wherein a technology or system gradually widens its scope from its original purpose to encompass and fulfil wider functions.

About FRT :

  • Facial recognition is an algorithm-based technology which creates a digital map of the face by identifying and mapping an individual’s facial features, which it then matches against the database to which it has access.
  • It is a biometric technology that uses distinctive features of the face to identify and distinguish an individual.
  • FRT has evolved in many ways- from looking at 3D contours of a face to recognizing skin patterns.
  • In the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS), the large database (containing photos and videos of peoples’ faces) is used to match and identify the person.

Advantages of FRT:

  1. Authentication: It is used for identification and authentication purposes with a success rate that keeps improving with each iteration.
  2. Force Multiplier: In India, where there are very few police/ law enforcement officers per citizens, this can act as a force multiplier for law and order . It neither requires too much manpower nor regular upgradation.
  3. It can help in investigations and solving many types of hitherto unsolvable crimes.

Disadvantages of FRT:

  1. Infrastructural Costs: Technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Big Data are costly to implement. The size of stored information is extremely large and requires huge network & data storage facilities.
  2. Violation to Privacy: Government although plans to address the question of privacy through the legal framework like data privacy regime, but keeping in mind the objectives it aims to achieve with the use of such technology, it comes into conflict with one another. Critics have argued that technologies like FRT, ARS, AI etc is leading to an Orwellian State that does mass surveillance.
  3. Reliability & Authenticity:  The data collected may be used in the court of law during the course of a criminal trial, but may not have robust reliability and authenticity.
  4. Absence of Data Protection Law: FRT systems in the absence of data protection laws that would mandate necessary safeguards in the collection and storage of user data is also a point of concern. Recently government withdrew the draft Personal Data Protection Bill.
  5. Issue of misidentification: the accuracy rate of FRT falls starkly based on race and gender. This can result in a false positive, where a person is misidentified as someone else, or a false negative where a person is not verified as themselves. Cases of a false positive result can lead to bias against the individual who has been misidentified.
  6. cases of false negative results: it can lead to exclusion of the individual from accessing essential schemes which may use FRT as means of providing access. One example of such exclusion is the failure of the biometric based authentication under Aadhaar which has led to many people being excluded from receiving essential government services which in turn has led to starvation deaths.

Two major types of uses of FRT:

It can be used for two purposes: firstly, 1:1 verification of identity wherein the facial map is obtained for the purpose of matching it against the person’s photograph on a database to authenticate their identity. For example, 1:1 verification is used to unlock phones.

However, increasingly it is being used to provide access to any benefits or government schemes.

Secondly, there is the 1:n identification of identity wherein the facial map is obtained from a photograph or video and then matched against the entire database to identify the person in the photograph or video. Law enforcement agencies such as the Delhi Police usually procure FRT for 1:n identification.

For 1:n identification, FRT generates a probability or a match score between the suspect who is to be identified and the available database of identified criminals. A list of possible matches are generated on the basis of their likelihood to be the correct match with corresponding match scores. However, ultimately it is a human analyst who selects the final probable match from the list of matches generated by FRT.


In a legal vacuum, there are no safeguards to ensure that authorities use FRT only for the purposes that they have been authorised to, as is the case with the Delhi Police. FRT can enable the constant surveillance of an individual resulting in the violation of their fundamental right to privacy. So its introduction into law and order and criminal justice system must be debated.

Editorial 2 : The OpenSea tale on the future of NFTs


Popular cryptocurrencies have nosedived after a meteoric rise last year. Several crypto exchanges laid off a significant portion of their employees and lending platforms are struggling to remain solvent. Being part of this ecosystem, non-fungible tokens, or NFTs also took a hit as a result of the crypto fallout.

About NFT:

  • A Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is a digitised form of any asset or work that has a clear identification of its owner and can not be copied or pirated.
  • Anything that can be converted into a digital form can be an NFT. Everything from the drawings, photos, videos, GIF, music, in-game items, selfies, and even a tweet can be turned into an NFT, which can then be traded online using cryptocurrency.
  • NFTs are digital assets whose ownership is verified through transaction records stored on blockchains. Art work, digital avatars and accessorised monkeys are some of the most commonly traded NFTs.
  • NFT is backed by Blockchain technology.
Blockchain is a distributed ledger where all transactions are recorded. It is like a bank passbook, except all the transactions are transparent and can be seen by anyone and cannot be changed or modified once recorded. It is a decentralised and unregulated form of a digital asset.
  • NFTs are gaining massive popularity now because they are becoming an increasingly popular way to showcase and sell your digital artwork.
  • Prerequisite to purchase an NFT-  Anyone who holds a cryptocurrency wallet can buy an NFT . NFT marketplace is where NFTs can be bought and sold.

Significance of NFTs:

  1. NFT works on blockchain as it gives users complete ownership of a digital asset which cannot be edited or modified by anyone, including the marketplace owner.
  2. NFTs provides exclusive owner rights i.e. NFTs can have only one owner at a time.
  3. NFT owners can also digitally sign their artwork and store specific information in their NFTs metadata which will be only viewable to the individual who bought the NFT.
  4. NFTs afford artists and content creators a unique opportunity to monetize their wares where artists can sell their art directly to the consumer.
  5. In addition, artists can program in royalties so they’ll receive a percentage of sales whenever their art is sold to a new owner.

Similarity and difference of NFT from cryptocurrency:

  • Cryptocurrency is a currency and is fungible, meaning that it is interchangeable.
  • But NFTs are non-fungible, which means the value of one NFT is not equal to another.
  • Similarity between them is that they are both built on Blockchain technology.

Risks associated with buying NFTs:

  1. Emergence of fake marketplaces: Unverified sellers often impersonating real artists and selling copies of their artworks for half prices
  2. Sharing potential phishing link during the sale to drain the participant’s crypto wallets.
  3. Hacking the NFT collections
  4. Technology issues like non attachment of a purchased item to the NFT, global chip shortage, etc.
  5. Ownership issues like losing the login credential might result in permanent loss of owned works
  6. Validation of transactions require crypto mining, which requires high powered computers that run at a very high capacity, affecting the environment
Union Budget 2022-23 has proposed a 30% tax on virtual digital assets that include cryptocurrencies, codes and non-fungible tokens.

The OpenSea fiasco:

  • OpenSea is said to be one of the largest NFT marketplaces in existence. Earlier this year, the platform was valued at over $13 billion after raising around $300 million in venture capital.
  • OpenSea’s June trade volume dropped to about $695 million. It further dropped about 30% in July to $528 million. Adding to the heavy loss in volume, the number of NFTs sold (Ethereum blockchain) have also been declining since January 2022

Role of celebrities:

  • Celebrities played a key role in boosting NFT sales, either by buying their own such assets or minting them and putting them up for sale on platforms like OpenSea.
  • Elon Musk, similarly, led to a surge in popularity and buying of a type of cryptocurrency called Doge Coin, which also saw wide fluctuations in its value due to Musks’ erratic tweets.
  • While celebrity endorsement or digital collectibles of celebrities may lead to brief surges in popularity, they are far from what is needed to keep the industry financially viable.

Conclusion :

  • Any new technology is likely to face many issues, the solution to which would also evolve over time through free market mechanisms and development in the technology itself.
  • So instead of imposing blanket ban on such emerging technologies, governments should try to regulate them while promoting the underlying technology. The same goes for cryptocurrency and NFT.


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