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India’s Telangana to test facial recognition in local elections

India’s Telangana to test facial recognition in local elections

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The southern Indian state of Telangana will use facial recognition software in local elections on Wednesday, authorities said, the first such use of the technology in the country despite growing concerns about privacy and surveillance.

Facial recognition software will be used to verify voters in 10 polling stations in the Medchal-Malkajgiri district to “reduce impersonation cases”, the Telangana State Election Commission said in an online notification late last week.

The privacy of voters will be protected, and their photographs will not be stored or used “for any other purpose”, according to the order.

A negative result will not be grounds to deny voting rights to anyone, it said.

“Facial recognition is not foolproof, and in this instance, misidentification can lead to disenfranchisement, which impinges on a core democratic right to vote,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia policy director at digital rights advocacy Access Now.

“It is unclear what legal framework it is being used under, and how the data will be secured and used,” he said.

Is this invasion of privacy?

Last month, the technology was used to screen crowds at a political rally for the first time, sparking fears that it was also being used to profile people at protests.

Indian authorities have said the technology is needed to bolster a severely under-policed country, and to stop criminals and find missing children.

However, it can’t be denied that this is an invasion of privacy and the fears of the citizens are not misplaced.

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