The Lucknow Police on Wednesday said it will set up Artificial Intelligence-enabled cameras in the city that will click pictures of women in distress based on their facial expressions and alert the local police station, reported The Times of India.
In a tweet, the Lucknow Commissionerate Police also said they were spreading awareness during a seminar about pink booths and women help desks set up by the Uttar Pradesh government under the “Mission Shakti” programme.
Speaking at the awareness event, Lucknow Police Commissioner DK Thakur said the police have identified 200 hotspots where the “movement of girls is maximum”, and where most complaints pertaining to women’s safety are received.
“We will set up five AI-based cameras which will be capable of sending an alert to nearest police station,” Thakur said. “These cameras will become active as soon as the expressions of a woman in distress change.” He claimed that before the women in distress are able to dial for help, an alert will reach the police.
Thakur said the police have already deployed 31 pink booths, 10 patrolling cars and 100 scooties, managed by women officers, in the city. “Lucknow is the only city in Uttar Pradesh which has been selected nationally to be developed as a ‘safe city’ for women,” the police commissioner said.
The move, however, has not gone down well with policy experts and researchers. Anupam Guha, assistant professor at the Centre for Policy Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, called the move “asinine” and “potentially harmful”.
In a series of tweets, Guha listed out the flaws in the idea, saying that facial expressions cannot predict anything about the mental state of humans. He also pointed out that machine learning requiring facial data was in violation of constitutional rights.
“I know India is a country where the fastest reaction to injustice is to kick the victim especially if the victim is a woman, but this thing is so remarkably Kafkaesque that its funny,” Guha said, mocking the initiative.
Anushka Jain, an associate counsel on transparency and right to information at Internet Freedom Foundation, said the move could lead to over-policing and unnecessary harassment by the police, NDTV Gadgets 360 reported. Jain is working on an initiative named Project Panoptic in which she’s tracking the deployment of facial recognition technology by various government departments in the country.
“We don’t know what expressions they are tracking and how accurate the system of tracking these expressions is,” she told NDTV. “Also, it’s not necessary that a person who’s making an expression of anger or distress is actually being harassed in a manner wherein police intervention is needed. I could be talking to a friend, and I could get upset over something. And that could also trigger the cameras.”
Experts have also raised questions if all or selected police personnel would have access to the cameras and the photos taken. The police have also not clarified if third parties would be involved, which could further raise concerns over data privacy.