Right to Privacy Vs Surveillance – UPSC GS2

Context: Amnesty International raised concerns that extensive surveillance of Hyderabad is putting human rights at risk.
How surveillance is carried out in Hyderabad?
It largely follows a three-pronged approach.
  • Wide web of CCTV cameras: 
    • Coverage upto 60% in certain areas. Telangana’s Nenu Saitham project aims to transform the Hyderabad City Police into a Global City Police. To help achieve this aim, the public has been encouraged to install CCTV cameras and share footage when required.
  • Facial recognition technology
  • Cordon and search operations
Issues/challenges associated with the surveillance measures:
  • According to Amnesty, facial recognition technologies can act as a tool of mass surveillance and pose a risk to disadvantaged communities.
  • It leads to alleged violation of privacy by the police. For instance, during a crackdown against ganja, the Telangana Prohibition and Excise Department teams checked the phones of people to verify if the word ‘ganja’ was used in their chats. Such incidents underscore crucial issues, the need for a data protection law and the concept of informed consent.
  • Cordon and search operations target lower rungs of society, and are an infringement of privacy. A fact-finding team from Hyderabad which probed cordon and search operations in some areas recently underscored the vulnerability of residents.
  • Policing and surveillance is done when no prohibitory orders were in force.