Stopping Facial Recognition (Face Scan) in Tamil Nadu: A Citizen’s Plea

Imagine walking down the street and having your picture taken by the police without your permission. That’s exactly what happened to a resident of Chennai, India. He got really worried about this and decided to take action. He went to the Madras High Court and asked them to make the police stop using facial recognition technology. Let’s find out why.

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Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) and Its Concerns

Facial recognition technology (FRT) is like a super-smart computer that can recognize people’s faces. The Chennai police were using this technology to take pictures of random people on the streets. They said it was to check who was out at night, but many people felt uncomfortable about it.

A Resident’s Complaint

One day, a guy named Akhilesh Kumar Kandasamy and his brother were walking near Beasant Nagar in Chennai when two police officers stopped them and took their photos with FRT. They didn’t ask for permission, and they didn’t explain why. Akhilesh was worried that the police had stored their pictures in a big database. He was also concerned because he had read news reports about the Tamil Nadu Police using FRT a lot.

What Did the Police Say?

The Chennai police said they started using FRT back in October 2021. They used it to take pictures of people and store them in a special database. They said it was for checking backgrounds of people, like suspects and passport applicants. They even used it to find missing persons and locate people they were looking for.

What the Laws Say

The police said they could use FRT because of laws from a long time ago, like the Tamil Nadu District Police Act from 1859 and the Criminal Procedure Code from 1973. But Akhilesh and others didn’t agree. They said these laws don’t really talk about using fancy technology like FRT.

Arguments Against FRT Usage

Akhilesh had some strong arguments against FRT usage:

  1. Discrimination: He said that FRT can make some groups of people look more suspicious than others, and that’s not fair.
  2. Privacy: Even though you’re in public, your face is still your private information. Taking pictures of people without permission is not okay.
  3. Not Necessary: Akhilesh thought that the police didn’t have to use FRT for everything; there might be better ways.
  4. No Safeguards: He said there were no rules to make sure the police didn’t use FRT in the wrong way or keep people’s pictures forever.

What’s Next?

The case is now in the hands of the Madras High Court. They are looking into all these arguments. But it’s also important to know that India has a new law about personal data protection. This law might change things in the future. So, we’ll have to see how this case goes and what the new law says.

In the end, it’s all about making sure that our privacy is protected and that technology is used in a fair and responsible way.

Challenges and Future for Facial Recognition Technology in India

As this case unfolds, it’s becoming clear that the use of facial recognition technology (FRT) in India is a complex issue. The Digital Personal Data Protection Act of 2023, a new law about personal data, has added another layer of challenge and opportunity to this debate.

The Impact of the Data Protection Act

The Digital Personal Data Protection Act, introduced in 2023, might change how FRT is used in India. Some parts of this law may allow government departments to use facial data collected by cameras in public spaces. However, it’s important to understand that the law also has certain exemptions and protections to ensure people’s rights are respected.

Balancing Privacy and Security

One of the key challenges is finding the right balance between privacy and security. On one hand, using FRT can help law enforcement in important tasks like identifying criminals and finding missing persons. On the other hand, it can infringe on the privacy of innocent citizens.

Need for Safeguards

Many argue that there should be clear rules and safeguards in place to prevent misuse of FRT. For instance, there should be specific guidelines on when, where, how, and for how long facial data can be collected and stored. This would ensure that our privacy is protected, and FRT is used responsibly.

Continuing the Fight for Privacy

As this case moves forward, it serves as an important reminder that citizens have the power to question and challenge the use of technology when it affects their privacy. It’s not just about stopping FRT; it’s about ensuring that technology respects our fundamental rights.

In the future, similar cases may arise, and they will need to navigate the provisions of the Data Protection Act. This means that the fight for privacy will continue as society grapples with the ever-evolving landscape of technology and its impact on our lives.

Ultimately, it’s about striking a balance where technology serves us without compromising our rights and freedoms. As technology advances, it’s up to society and its institutions to adapt, ensuring that our values and principles remain at the forefront.

Transparency and Accountability

Another important aspect in the debate about facial recognition technology is transparency and accountability. People have the right to know when and how their data is being used. It’s crucial that government and law enforcement agencies are transparent about their use of FRT and are held accountable for any misuse.

Public Awareness and Education

As these discussions unfold, it’s also essential for the public to stay informed and educated about the implications of FRT. Knowing your rights and understanding the technology can empower individuals to protect their privacy and advocate for responsible use of FRT.

International Comparisons

India is not the only country grappling with the challenges of facial recognition technology. Many nations around the world are having similar debates. Looking at how other countries are handling this technology can provide valuable insights and solutions for India.

The Role of Activists and Citizens

Social activists, like the Chennai resident who filed the plea, play a crucial role in advocating for privacy rights. Their efforts help bring these important issues to the forefront and push for responsible and ethical use of technology.


The use of facial recognition technology is a complex and evolving topic. Balancing the benefits of technology with individual privacy rights is a challenge that requires ongoing discussions, legal considerations, and societal awareness.

As India navigates this path, it’s essential to strike a balance that protects both privacy and security, ensuring that the use of FRT is responsible, transparent, and in line with the values and rights that underpin our democracy. The case before the Madras High Court is just one step in this larger conversation, and its outcome will likely have implications for the future of technology and privacy in India.

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