HC notices to MA&UD Secretary, Police Commissioner over FRT

Telangana High Court on Monday issued notices to the State government and Hyderabad Police Commissioner over a PIL petition questioning usage of facial recognition technology (FRT) by the police.

A social activist, S.Q. Masood, filed the plea seeking a direction to suspend usage of FRT by the police, stating that usage of such technology was not backed by any law. The petitioner contended that using such technology without legal backing amounted to invasion of privacy of citizens.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Abhinand Kumar Shavili, after hearing contentions of the petitioner’s counsel, issued notices to Secretary of Municipal Administration and Urban Development along with Hyderabad Police Commissioner. They were instructed to file counter affidavits in the matter.

While adopting the technology, the authorities did not introduce any elements of procedural safeguards to check misuse of the same, said the petitioner. There was no mechanism to make use of the technology to target only specific persons which constituted violation of right to equality before law.

According to Mr. Masood, police officials stopped him near Shahran Burqa Market on May 19 last and clicked his pictures without explaining why they were doing so. He claimed to have written to Police Commissioner on the issue on May 31 last seeking deletion of his personal data. There was no response from the police, he stated.

Citing a judgement of nine-judge bench of Supreme Court, the petitioner maintained that the requirements of legality, need and proportionality must be fulfilled while limiting the fundamental right to privacy. However, there was no legality (backing of law) in police adopting FRT and hence it should be declared illegal, the petitioner’s counsel said.

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