RECOGNISING THE PITFALLS OF USING FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY - The Daily Guardian
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RECOGNISING THE PITFALLS OF USING FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY

Facial recognition software can greatly benefit law enforcement agencies in India and make the country a safer place for its citizens. However, it poses a great threat of misuse, which calls for open debates about its pros and cons and a thorough vetting of laws related to it.

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Once upon a time, criminals had no borders. They would pick places at will and Hindi cinema would glorify them with lines like, “Don ki talash toh gyarah mulkon ki police kar rahi hai, lekin Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hai’’. The world was also a more interesting place before facial recognition technology was deployed. Now, across airports, bus-stations and traffic signals, cameras are ubiquitous.

Once everything is connected, this technology can identify people using any camera in the world. The technology is far more advanced than the people it caters to, making the possibility of a surveillance state not too far off in the future. Thus, it is the right time for the US Democratic lawmakers who introduced a bill that would ban the use of facial recognition technology by federal law enforcement agencies. But, do we need something similar in India?

According to reports, the US bill would make it illegal for any federal agency or official to “acquire, possess, access, or use” biometric surveillance technology in the US. Law enforcement agencies leverage and utilise facial recognition technology to identify victims and suspects by matching their photos and videos with pre-existing databases, such as driving license records and other markers of identity. But civil liberties groups have been raising concerns about facial recognition being prone to privacy erosion and reinforcing racial biases.

Lawmakers argue that technologies like facial recognition violate human rights and privacy and the discourse needs some intervention before we suffer a data breach and an unprecedented crisis. 

DEMOCRATISING AI: A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD?

The proposed law has arrived at a time when the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement agencies came under major fire amid the protests against the killing of George Floyd in late May this year. Studies have repeatedly shown that facial recognition is less accurate for people of colour, specifically the Black community. The New York Times reported a similar incident wherein an innocent black man in Michigan was arrested due to misidentification by a facial recognition software.

The exact reason for the misidentification of darker-skinned people by facial recognition software is still unknown. One of the main factors is that the data being used to train algorithms is said to have a disproportionate number of white males as opposed to people of colour and women. Another reason for the misidentification by law enforcement agencies is that facial recognition software uses mugshots from criminal databases to find an exact match and the databases have a disproportionate number of people of colour, leading to false matches. The US criminal justice system functions with the aid of a computer programme for sentencing and granting bail. It has been observed by data scientists that the system is disproportionately unfair towards people of color. As reported by journalists Harry Armstrong and Jared Robert Keller in The Guardian, “In the US, criminal ‘risk assessments,’ based on predictive analytics, have already been shown to be biased against black individuals because the data used to build the system is inherently biased.”

AI is inherently unbiased and what it learns is purely based on the data we provide. So, we must be careful while preparing the dataset before training AI. Even in case of seemingly perfect data, there might be a bias, based on the features we ask the AI models to learn or pick from the dataset. So, it is critical to constantly analyse the results in order to improve the dataset. It is also important to put in place periodic updates and additions to the dataset as well as re-train the AI models.

From the Indian perspective, we should learn from the experiences of others and ensure that we do not repeat the same mistakes. If used correctly, AI can help improve people’s lives.

India’s judicial system is a textbook case of ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. It has a complex mix of problems. We have one of the most understaffed police forces in the world. Each state has its own police force that faces political pressures on a day-to-day basis and has to work with archaic laws and an infinitely long cycle of judicial hearings.

Deploying facial recognition technology will help the forces in critical areas. The central government has approved the implementation of Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS). It will help police forces to search for criminals and missing and dead people from a nationwide database.

In our country, there is no precedent of law enforcement agencies being biased towards darker-skinned people. However, there are different parameters for discrimination in our police forces, based on caste, economic status and, sometimes, religion. Therefore, the bias of a facial recognition system for darker-skinned people is not relevant to India. But, the threat of a privacy breach and this powerful tool being misused still remains, which is why we need very strong laws to protect our citizens.

REVAMPING POLICY FRAMEWORKS

Independent data regulators should build a progressive data regime. The right steps to protect the data and its misuse need to be taken. At present, there are seven international agreements and standards centred on data privacy, out of which, five require the establishment of an independent supervisory authority. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Principles do not stress on the need for an independent supervisory authority. However, with the Europe model, both the GDPR (previously Directive 1995) and the Convention 108 of the Council of Europe i.e. 90% of countries with data protection laws have opted for this model.

India introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill in December 2019. It is a thorough document covering most of our concerns. Currently, the bill is still under review by the committee and stakeholders. If it gets slated for early next year, we can have an ombudsman of data in place, at the earliest.

The bill has provisions to exempt government agencies from the bill in certain circumstances involving national security, in accordance with the procedures established by the law. These are a few grey areas we must be cautious about and make sure that the laws are put in place keeping in mind both the privacy of people and the security of our nation.

THE WAY FORWARD

In both the Indian and global contexts, we need to ensure that facial recognition technology is used ethically and does not violate the privacy of end-users. General consensus among the public is mixed. For instance, the Bangalore airport is implementing face recognition based on boarding passes and not facing any repercussions since its use is restricted to the airport with a choice to opt-in or out of it. The government promotes CCTV camera usage in public places for safety purposes and the reaction of the public is generally positive towards it too. In fact, in all such areas, it is repeatedly announced that people are under CCTV surveillance.

Before introducing a new technology that will redefine how our law enforcement agencies function, due diligence should be done. Transparency in acquiring data and its uses will help the general public understand how facial recognition is helping to create a safer society. There should be open debates about the threats along with the benefits such a system brings to our police force. Rules and regulations around the use of technology should go through proper channels.

Biometric data has simplified life for several people across the country. To minimise the misuse of facial recognition, it should be under the control of a single government body which should be made answerable. It would also reduce the blame game in case of a breach and make the process of finding loopholes easier. The state agencies should work with central agencies to use the resources available, where predefined quotas will help remove discrepancies between the usage among different state agencies.

Meanwhile, the starting point could be a system like the face recognition-based boarding pass at BIAL, where the public can decide if they want to opt into the system or not, just like the option to lock or unlock Aadhaar details and biometrics.

Facial recognition is a very powerful tool that can reform law enforcing processes in India. It will help locate criminals in a short duration, making the society a safer place. Eventually, cameras will identify all criminals and no ‘don’ will ever be able to make his boastful statements ever again.

The writer is CEO and co-founder of Integration Wizards Solutions.

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ON DOCTORS’ DAY, NETIZENS THANK DOCTORS FOR THEIR IMMENSE CONTRIBUTION

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As India celebrated National Doctors’ Day on Friday, politicians, business leaders and social media users took to Twitter to thank doctors for their immense contribution and serve to the nation. #NationalDoctorsDay took the top trend as wishes poured in on social media. Leading the celebrations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a video on social media and said, “Doctors Day greetings to all hardworking doctors who play a key role in saving lives and making our planet healthier.”

Union minister Nitin Gadkari remembered Bharat Ratna Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, who was an Indian physician, freedom fighter, educationist and philanthropist. “Deepest gratitude to all the doctors on National Doctors Day. I salute their tireless efforts in keeping us safe during the global pandemic,” he said.

Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan also remembered Bharat Ratna Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy and tweeted, “Remembering Bharat Ratna Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, one of the pioneers of healthcare sector on National Doctors Day. Today , let us express our gratitude and take a moment to appreciate all our doctors for their round-the-clock efforts for a healthy and fit society.”

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Fearing a layoff? Devise an action plan

Priyanka Sharma

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India›s workforce has been at the receiving end of the economic impact of the pandemic. While many of the employees faced salary cuts up to 40-50%, there are a significant number of people who were laid off. One might assume that layoffs were a phase and the time to recover losses that occurred due to Covid-19 is not too far, but the recent layoffs in EdTech giants like BYJU’s and Topper paint a different picture.

In such uncertain times, there are certain strategies that one can adopt to evade a powerful economic blow. Having an action plan might not help in retaining the same job, but it will sure help in sustaining a huge financial blow as well as finding more opportunities.

BE INDISPENSABLE

The trick to retaining a job is to be invincible. Be so good at your job that it prompts the employer to think twice before taking a decision on laying you off. This does not happen in a day. Daily actions translate into a long-term commitment. Show up on time, learn as much as you can, deliver more than expected, come up with new ideas, maintain good relationships with your colleagues as well as your seniors, and you will carve out a space for yourself in your organisation.

INVEST IN YOURSELF

Learning is a process that must never end. Skills like creative writing, social media marketing, video editing, graphic designing, machine learning and others are skills that are highly in demand. Even if you are working an 8-hour shift and are not actively looking for a job, these skills will give a boost to your resume, enhance your skill set and set you apart from others.

BUILD NETWORK

Social media has made it possible for us to stay connected all the time, not just with our friends and family but also with potential employers. Building a positive relationship with your colleagues, ex-colleagues, seniors and people who are working in other organisations will ensure that you never miss an opportunity. Showcase your work on websites like LinkedIn to ensure that you don’t look for an opportunity, rather it comes to you.

BUILD ASSETS

No matter what your current pay scale is, it is always advisable to have multiple sources of revenue. That is only possible when you start investing early. Whether it is your 1st paycheck or your 300th paycheck, make sure to save a portion of your salary. Spend that amount on things that will give you a bigger return and not just dig a hole in your pocket. It is always advisable to have an emergency fund. As the term suggests, this emergency fund will help you sail through a difficult time. Even if you are laid off, you will be financially secure.

POSITIVE SELF TALK

Finally, it might get difficult to stay unaffected by what is happening around you. The uncertainty can take a toll on you but staying positive can help you not only manifest your dream job but also avoid the stress. Have a positive self-image, eat nutritious meals, dance your heart out, spend time with family and wait for life to surprise you.

Having an action plan might not help in retaining a job but it will help in sustaining a huge financial blow as well as finding more opportunities.

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‘THE TERMINAL LIST’ FAILS TO LIVE UP TO THE HYPE

Despite the promise, ‘The Terminal List’ doesn’t really offer anything new to the world of action thrillers.

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Over the last decade or so, Chris Pratt seems to have overtaken everybody else to become a leading blockbuster action hero in Hollywood. He brings with him just the right mix of charisma and rugged machismo. Not many are aware that there was a time when Pratt failed the auditions for J. J. Abrams’ ‘Star Trek’ and James Cameron’s ‘Avatar.’ But, it all changed for Pratt with ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ wherein he played one of the soldiers who took part in the eventual assassination mission to take down Osama bin Laden. He followed it up with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ wherein he essays the part of a brash space adventurer named Peter Quill who gets hunted by relentless bounty hunters after he steals an orb coveted by Ronan, the Supreme Accuser of the Kree Empire. Subsequently, he went on to star in films like ‘Jurassic World,’ wherein he undertakes the seemingly impossible task of training raptors, ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ wherein Pratt stars as a member of a band of cowboys who are hired to protect a small town from an evil baron, and ‘The Tomorrow War,’ which stars Pratt in the role of a man recruited to fight an invasion taking place in the future.  

With such hard-hitting action thrillers under his belt, Chris Pratt looks like the ideal choice to play the part of James Reece in the new Amazon Prime Video series ‘The Terminal List,’ which is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Jack Carr. The series follows Reece after his entire platoon of Navy SEALs is ambushed during a high-stakes covert mission. Reece returns home to his family with conflicting memories of the event and questions about his culpability. However, as new evidence comes to light, Reece discovers dark forces working against him, endangering not only his life, but the lives of those he loves. The series stars Constance Wu, Taylor Kitsch, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Riley Keough, Arlo Mertz, Jai Courtney, JD Pardo, and Patrick Schwarzenegger, among others. Antoine Fuqua, the veteran director of films such as ‘The Equalizer,’ ‘Training Day,’ serves as an executive producer (he also is a director) on the series. The show is written by David DiGilio (‘Strange Angel’), who is also an executive producer on the show alongside Fuqua and Pratt.

To help with authenticity, ‘The Terminal List’ engaged veterans and their families as part of multiple aspects of the series production. For example, half the show’s writing staffers are either veterans themselves or have veterans in their families. ‘The Terminal List’ adds to the list of action thrillers which are already a part of Amazon Prime Video’s catalogue such as ‘Jack Ryan,’ ‘Hanna,’ ‘Reacher,’ and ‘Bosch,’ among others. And, despite the promise, it doesn’t really offer anything new to the world of action thrillers. Yes, there is Chris Pratt and the wonderful supporting cast, Jack Carr’s bestselling novel, and Fuqua’s direction. But, it just doesn’t add up in a way the makers would have hoped and fails to live up to the hype of this big game-changer of an action show that marks Pratt’s highly anticipated return to television.      

A show like ‘The Terminal List’ could have been a trendsetter had it come out a decade back but today there is so much solid action content out there that it’s very difficult to stand out in the crowd. If anyone could have delivered it, it’s the team of Pratt and Fuqua but unfortunately ‘The Terminal List’ falls short by some distance. A much better option with the story on offer and the chosen treatment perhaps would have been a four-episode miniseries or a feature film rather than a full-fledged series. However, the show isn’t without merits. There are loads and loads of action on offer and even though most of it is pretty predictable the action lovers wouldn’t be disappointed. Fans of Chris Pratt too wouldn’t mind seeing him beating the bad guys to pulp. Some of the old action buffs might even be reminded of films of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, notwithstanding the lack of novelty or surprise on offer.      

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ON SOCIAL MEDIA DAY, NETIZENS CALL FOR CAUTION AND VERIFICATION

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Section 144 CrPC order on social media

On the occasion of Social Media Day on Thursday, netizens took to social media to spread the message of caution. The official Twitter account of United Nations shared, “We all love to share. But sharing misformation is harmful and it spreads faster when we are upset. On Thursday’s Social Media Day, we ask you to #PledgeToPause and verify content before you share it online.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also tweeted: “Lies and misinformation spread around the world at the touch of a button. We can do our part to stop the spread. On Social Media Day, I encourage you to pause and take time to verify facts before you share something online.”

A social media user said, “Social Media Day is a day to celebrate the freedom and opportunities that this platform has given us,” whereas another social media user said, “Happy Social Media Day to all. Let us pledge to be more sensible, factual, responsible and positive on social media platforms.”

In today’s day and age, when the world is going digital, social media is paving its way to become an information age. From getting to know which celebrity is partying where, who got a promotion amongst your friend circle and sometimes, getting your daily dose of news, social media has emerged as one of the most important tools in our daily lives.

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16 LGBTQ filmmakers awarded at ‘Colors of Love Film Festival’

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About 16 LGBTQ filmmakers were awarded at the fourth edition of the “Colors of Love International LGBT Film Festival”, organised by Script Factory Production Private Limited. Out of 61 film submissions from LGBT filmmakers around the world, the jury recognised 22 films and 16 filmmakers for their inspiring work. The LGBT Film Festival received submissions for short films, documentaries, animation films, music videos, and web series with LGBTQ themes.

OUT, a short film directed by Seth Chitwood of the United States won the best LGBT-Gay film, followed by best LGBT-Lesbian film ‘Where do the sounds go’ directed by Florent Gouelou of France, Best LGBT-Bisexual Film ‘Write to me by mistake’ directed by Guiseppe De Candia of Italy, Best LGBT-Transgender Film ‘Sisterhood’ directed by Tobias Kralmark of Sweden, Best LGBT-Sexual Diversity Film ‘Quality Check’ directed by Harriette Murtland of the United States, Best LGBT-Documentary Film by ‘Merchant Marine Paul Goercke and Alexander Hamilton Post 448’ directed by Alexander Zane Irwin of the United States.

Best LGBT-Animation Film ‘Embrace’ directed by Latesha Merkel of the United States, Best LGBT–HIV based film ‘More Tomorrow than Before’ directed by Ulises Perez Mancil from Mexico, Best LGBT–Music Video ‘Give Her Your Love’ directed by Celeste Lois from Argentina, Best LGBT–Pride Celebration Film ‘Heaven in Hell’ directed by Len Rosen from the United States, best LGBT Director ‘Send Pic?’ directed by James Cooper from Canada, Best LGBT Female Filmmaker ‘Shall We Talk?’ directed by Katya Mikheeva from Russian Federation, Best LGBT Screenwriter ‘Keep Off the Grass’ written by Francis Rudd from the UK, best LGBT Cinematography Film ‘Enigma’ by Cinematographer Rayner Cook from the United States, best LGBT Editor ‘Breathe’ edited by Stefan Hickert from the Netherlands and Special Jury Mentioned award ‘Romario’ directed by James Cooper from Canada.

The LGBT Film Festival received submissions for short films, documentaries, animation films, music videos, and web series with LGBTQ themes.

Gary Punjabi, director of the LGBT Film Festival said, “The USP of the LGBT Film Festival is that it was organised during Pride Month (June),”addi ng, “There was an audience interaction on the topic “Women and Bollywood,” where we discussed female Bollywood filmmakers, and hosted a panel discussion on the topic “Pride is Every Day,” with panellists Jaswant Kaur, Kirandeep Sahay, and Ravindra Mukherjee.”

Color’s of Love international LGBT Film Festival was founded by the Script Factory Production Private Limited in 2020. An LGBTQ community enterprise, Colors of Love was founded to curate and present queer short films to new audiences in a fun and informative manner.

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SPENDING TIME WITH NAMBI WAS A GREAT INSIGHT, SAYS MADHAVAN

Actor R. Madhavan is all set for his directorial debut. Will ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect’ kick off a new era for Indian cinema? Find out in this exclusive conversation.

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With less than 50 days to go for 75 years of India’s Independence, patriotism is evidently in the air. This Friday, audiences will get to witness it across cinema halls in India, with the release of the much-awaited “spy” thriller –Rocketry, The Nambi Effect. Narayanan was a part of the golden engine team that was instrumental in kicking off India’s ambitious satellite programmes. Narayanan’s fight for justice to clear his name off the falsely accused espionage charges forms the central theme of this movie. The Daily Guardian Review spoke to actor R. Madhavan for an exclusive conversation before his big release. Excerpts:

R. Madhavan (left), and Nambi Narayanan.The poster of the film.

Q: Are you nervous, excited or a bit of both?

A: Right now, I have reached a stage beyond exhaustion and so I’m kind of numb. I’m happy that the film is releasing. I’m very keen to see the outcome of this film. I think I have moved past the stage of excitement and nervousness.

Q: What was your experience of working with Nambi like?

A: I think it was an eye-opener. First of all, it was embarrassing that one didn’t know enough about him and his story. It was even more shocking that what you knew about him was not even scratching the surface. When I knew the truth about who Nambi Sir is and what he has done for this country that nobody was aware of, it made me feel ashamed. It was that emotion which drove me to make up my mind about doing this film. 

Q: Did you build a ‘more than movie’ relationship with him?

A: Oh yes! I’m in awe of him. Absolute awe. On top of that, he is kind, he is generous, and with age, he has been more active than most of us put together- mentally and physically. Had it not been for Covid that he, unfortunately, got in the last week, he would have been there with me now for all the promotions, which is something that I miss about the whole film, the promotion.

Q: How difficult was it to get into the skin of the character? 

A: See, the thing is, I spent a lot of time trying to get into his mind and trying to understand what makes his mind tick. What makes him such a crazy patriot? You know the kind of guy who looks beyond the obvious and makes the impossible possible, right? Spending time with him was a great insight. I realised that people like him are patriots because they do their job with absolute sincerity, without any expectation of fame or money or anything of that sort. That’s an attitude, which is in-built and cannot be cultivated.

Q: How important is a movie like this for Gen Z to get inspired and feel patriotic?

A: The whole idea was to increase the intellectual capital of India, which is so required at this juncture. Telling a story of technocrats like Nambi Sir and glorifying the technological achievements in fields like science or medicine or IT is very essential. The idea is to see the film and understand that there are some geniuses, who have studied in the esteemed universities abroad and came back to work for the country. 

Q: Is that why you recently also described Nambi as the ‘Father of James Bond’? 

A: Yes, I think so. It’s uncanny the things he has done. I wish I had 12 hours to tell his story. With the sheer amount of strength, tenacity, and bravery to go with technical finesse, he is a genius in making the rocket engine. All that makes him the ‘Father of James Bond.’ Imagine, James Bond with everything he did and also an inventor and a scientist.

Q: From Madhavan, the actor to Madhavan, the Creator, how significant is that change?

A: Well, you know, academically it’s a huge change and I have little idea how much I have succeeded in it till the first of July and how the outcome of the film will be in terms of the public. For me, it was sort of a mission, almost insanity. No rationale for me to have done this film with the kind of budget we did it in, but we did it and finally, I have to tell you that I’m nervous about that outcome as anybody else. 

Q: What is your reaction to the film getting a 10-minute-long standing ovation at Cannes 2022?

A: (Laughs) Well, I have to figure out if that ovation was for Nambi Sir alone or if some of it was for me as a director as well. I suspect it was because Nambi Sir was there. 

Q: ‘Life Before Nambi’ and ‘Life After Nambi’, for you, what is the road ahead?

A: That already happened. My life before I met Nambi Sir is very different. Madhavan before meeting Nambi Sir is very different from Madhavan after having met Nambi Sir. I think I am permanently changed. And I suspect, for the better.

Q: Your directorial debut is a biopic. Will we see a pattern for your subsequent ventures too?

A: I hope so. Maybe I won’t be directing them but definitely looking at more ventures that are meaningful, about technocrats and their achievements and the possibilities that this country offers in every aspect of technology. We only end up making biopics on soldiers and sportspersons but I think it’s about time we made it about our technocrats as well. On that note, ‘Rocketry’ is all set to take off. 

Vaishnavi H.S. is an entertainment industry analyst who has worked in leadership roles in many leading television and radio channels.

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