South Western Railways

Background

The Ministry of Railways has issued a tender on January 8, 2020 to acquire facial recognition technology to be installed at railway stations across the country. The estimated budget of the project is 250 Crore INR which was allotted to the Ministry under the Nirbhaya Fund in an effort to increase the security and ensure safety to the citizens of the country who travel through the railways.

In phase-I that is targeted for this year, South Western Railway (SWR) has recently commissioned Video Surveillance system (CCTV) at 6 major stations - Ballari by providing 33 Cameras, Belagavi with 36 Cameras, Vasco-Da Gama with 36 Cameras, Bengaluru Cantt with 21 Cameras, Bangarpet with 36 Cameras, Hassan with 36 Camera and at 3 Stations at Hassan, Shivamogga Town & Sathya Sai Prasanthi Nilayam, work is under progress and will be commissioned shortly. Integrated security systems comprising CCTV have already been installed at 11 stations including Bengaluru with 71 Cameras, Yesvantpur with 35 Cameras, and Mysuru with 34 Cameras.

(Source: https://www.livemint.com/news/india/railway-stations-to-have-smart-cameras-for-facial-recognition-11578513121172.html )

On January 9, 2020, through Press Release No. 342, the South Western Railway announced that implementation of a pilot project for facial recognition technology had been initiated at the KSR Bengaluru Station in 2019 and was expected to be completed by February 2020.

Who will be affected?

The South Western Railway Zone of the Indian Railways comprises of the Hubballi, Bangalore and Mysuru divisions with a total 456 stations.

Scope of the project

Four types of Full HD Cameras –

  1. Dome type (for indoor areas),

  2. Bullet type (for platforms),

  3. Pan Tilt Zoom type (for parking areas) and

  4. Ultra HD- 4k cameras (for crucial locations) are being provided.

CCTV camera live feeds are displayed on multiple screens at the Railway Protection Force (RPF) control room for monitoring. Each HD camera at the station consumes approximately 1TB of data and 4k camera consumes 4 TB data per month. The recording of the video feeds from CCTV cameras will be stored for 30 days for playback, post event analysis and for investigation purposes. Important videos can be stored for a longer duration.

RTI Findings

On February 7, 2020, we filed a RTI request with the South Western Railway and South Western Railway- Bengaluru Division to learn more about the specifics of the pilot project carried out in Bangalore Station, the legal basis for the project, details on expenditure by the state, and safeguards to protect people’s constitutional rights if any.

Questions asked

Our RTI request sought details on the following facets: 1. Please provide all documents and reports relating to the pilot project conducted in the KSR Bengaluru Station from January 2019.

  1. Please provide documents which state that the pilot project was 100 per cent successful as claimed in the press release.

  2. Please provide documents which mention the methodology followed for the pilot project.

  3. Please state the legislation or rule which authorizes the South Western Railways to use facial recognition technology.

  4. Please state whether any legal opinion was sought by the South Western Railways prior to procurement of facial recognition technology. If yes, please provide a copy of the legal opinion.

  5. Please state whether any cost-benefit analysis, feasibility study or privacy impact assessment was conducted prior to deployment of facial recognition technology. If yes, please provide a copy of the same.

  6. Please state whether there are any guidelines, policies, rules or standard operating procedure governing the use of facial recognition technology by the South Western Railways. If yes, please provide a copy of the same.

  7. Please state the specific purposes for which facial recognition technology is being used by the South Western Railways.

  8. Please state the total expenditure incurred (in rupees) on procurement and maintenance of facial recognition technology with an annual breakdown.

  9. Please provide a copy of the following documents relating to tender issued by the South Western Railways for procurement of facial recognition technology:

    a. All tender documents including Request for Proposals, Request for Quotations and Scope of Work

    b. List of bidders who applied for the tender

  10. Please provide an exhaustive list of persons and/or organizations authorised to operate and use facial recognition technology.

  11. Please provide details of the software and hardware being used for facial recognition.

  12. Please provide details of the database(s) in which images are stored for the purpose of facial recognition including:

    a. Where these images are sourced from.

    b. Where is this database located.

    c. Which persons and/or organizations who have access to this database.

Replies received

In a reply dated March 6, 2020 South Western Railway refused to provide the information asked for by citing exemptions under S.8(a) and 2(f) of the RTI Act, 2000.

Published By
Anushka Jain

Anushka Jain

Associate Counsel (Surveillance & Transparency), IFF

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