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  • 03 January, 2020

  • 4 Min Read

Success of facial recognition tech depends on data

Syllabus subtopic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

Prelims and Mains focus: About the AFRS system and its uses in various fields; about NCRB: its objectives and functions

News: Facial recognition software is now an integral part of policing, globally. Last month, the police used its automated facial recognition system (AFRS) to screen crowds at PM Modi’s rally on the citizenship law in Delhi.

What is the purpose of AFRS software?

  • AFRS is a software that recognizes, records and matches faces against various government databases from photos and videos taken from public and private sources.
  • Its purpose is to find missing children, who may be recorded on CCTV; track criminals across a country; and in the case of Modi’s rally, recognize people who were likely to raise protest slogans at the rally, based on footage recorded from earlier protests. According to reports, people at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan had to pass through a metal detector, during which a camera captured a photo of their faces and scanned it against a database in a matter of seconds.

How does the software work?

The police’s AFRS is different from the facial recognition systems used on smartphones. The latter is based on the ISO 19794-5 standard meant for consumer biometrics; the police’s software is more “restrictive”, as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) document seeking proposals for the system. It measures facial features and uses the measurements to create a “template” to be matched against others, says an American Bar Association study. Law enforcement’s software is meant to work in various light conditions; detect make-up, plastic surgery or ageing; and work against sketches of subjects.

Can facial recognition technology be beaten?

A review of the London Metropolitan Police’s facial recognition system by academics from the University of Essex in July 2019 showed that the system had erred in 81% of the cases. However, law enforcement bodies worldwide have adopted the system, although there are enough reports for and against the software.

Which databases does AFRS have access to?

The NCRB document says AFRS should be able to check against various databases. Besides the criminal database, it mentions the passport database; the Aadhaar database that includes your photo may be used too. It mentions the Immigration, Visa and Foreigners’ Registration Tracking database, the ministry of women and child development’s Khoya-Paya and the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System. It can match a photo against many and compare one photo with another. The more the data, the better is the output.

What is the scope of India’s AFRS?

NCRB’s proposal clearly states that while a centralized web application will be hosted in the crime record bureau’s data centre in Delhi, it will be made available to “all police stations of the country”. That means AFRS certainly stretches on a national scale. Furthermore, Delhi Police also required the software to work on Android, iOS and Windows platforms. “NCRB has already proposed the provision of mobile data terminals to each police station,” states the proposal document.

About National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB)

  • NCRB was set-up in 1986 to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators based on the recommendations of the Tandon Committee to the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the MHA’s Taskforce (1985).

  • NCRB was entrusted with the responsibility for monitoring, coordinating and implementing the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) project in the year 2009. The project connects 15000+ police stations and 6000 higher offices of police in the country.

  • NCRB launched the National Digital Police Portal. It allows search for a criminal/suspect on the CCTNS database apart from providing various services to citizens like filing of complaints online and seeking antecedent verification of tenants, domestic help, drivers etc.


  • Entrusted to maintain National Database of Sexual Offenders (NDSO) and share it with the States/UTs on a regular basis.
  • Designated as the Central Nodal Agency to manage technical and operational functions of the ‘Online Cyber-Crime Reporting Portal’ through which any citizen can lodge a complaint or upload a video clip as evidence of crime related to child pornography, rape/gang rape.
  • Compiles and publishes National Crime Statistics. Crime in India, Accidental Deaths & Suicides and also Prison Statistics.
  • Serve as a principal reference point to policymakers, police, criminologists, researchers and media, both in India and abroad.
  • IT-based Public Services like Vahan Samanvay (online matching for Stolen/Recovered vehicles) and Talash (matching of missing persons and dead bodies) is maintained.
  • Maintains Counterfeit Currency Information and Management System (FICN) and Integrated Monitoring on Terrorism (iMoT) applications.
  • Assists various States in capacity building in the area of Information Technology, CCTNS, Finger Prints, Network security and Digital Forensics through its training centres.

Source: Livemint

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