Hyderabad: Telangana State became the first in the country to deploy facial recognition technology for voting on Wednesday. In spite of opposition by activists, the controversial technology was deployed at 10 polling stations spread over four wards in Kompally Municipality.
The State Election Commission (SEC) had called this a pilot project to assess the feasibility of facial recognition for voter identification. If it succeeds, the technology is expected in the upcoming GHMC elections. However, activists and a few politicians have decried the move. They point out that currently there is no law that governs the collection, storage or deletion of personal and biometric data of users. Without such a law, they say, the technology could be misused.
The voters at these polling stations were authenticated using a specially-designed app loaded on a mobile phone. Their data was preloaded from the EPIC Voter-ID database for comparison and authentication. Speaking to mediapersons, Kompally municipal commissioner MNR Jyothi said, “This is only a trial. If a voter’s authentication does not happen via the app, an official will verify his credentials manually, like it has been done always.” She added that Telangana State Technology Services (TSTS) officials, who handle the back-end infrastructural support for the technology, were present at each of the 10 booths for support in case something went wrong.
Jyothi said that if the technology worked well, it would be useful for future polling. “It will pr-event malpractice, double voting, duplicate voting and so on,” she said.
Activists criticised it. Srinivas Kodali, an independent internet rese-archer, tweeted that TS IT department had become opaque in the name of innovation.
Fundamental right to privacy has been violated, says Owaisi
The previous day, criticism of facial recognition came from AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi. Taking exception to the SEC’s decision, he asked if voters had consented to being recorded while entering a polling booth. “What law permits the use of this technology? Are there safeguards to prevent the misuse of this data?” he asked.
On Twitter, he said, “Right to privacy is a fundamental right and it cannot be violated so brazenly.” The party also presented a letter to the SEC, asking it to not use the technology since it violated the guidelines on privacy laid down by the Supreme Court in the Puttuswamy judgement....