18th March 2020 : The Hindu Editorials Summary Notes : Mains Sure Shot
Question – Can the pandemic coronavirus present India with an opportunity to revive multilateralism in an environment where the major powers like the U.S. are turning protectionist?
Context – Coronavirus and its aftermath.
Note – Before understanding today’s article, we have to understand two words – cross national and cross domain.
- Cross national – relating to two or more nations.
- Cross domain – means that a disruption in one domain will lead to a parallel disruption in the other domain.
- Multilateralism – the principle of participation by three or more parties, especially by the governments of different countries. Opposite of unilateralism or bilateralism.
The present scenario:
- Nationalist trends are becoming more intense, countries are beginning to build walls around themselves and hence even the existing multilateralism of the present is being further weakened.
- Institutions such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization which are already marginalised may become increasingly irrelevant. There could be a return to autarkic economic and trade policies and an even deeper and more pervasive anti-globalisation sentiment.
- Unless there is a conscious effort to stem this through a reaffirmation of multilateralism, we are looking at a very depressing decade ahead.
- The article uses the reference of the pandemic coronavirus and highlights two facts. First, that through coronavirus disruption we have understood one thing that just like coronavirus is not limited to just one nation, in the same way the problems that will arise in the future will be cross national in character i.e. they will not be limited to just one nation. Let us see water scarcity for example or other environmental changes or trafficking and so on.
- Second, that these challenges are cross-domain in nature, with strong feedback loops i.e. a disruption in one domain often cascades into parallel disruptions in other domains. Simply put, the treatment of one problem adversely affects the other end. For example, the use of chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides may promote food security but have injurious health effects, undermining health security.
- So when formulating any policy to deal with an issue, the policy makers should keep these two inter domain linkages in mind.
The example of coronavirus:
- This is a global challenge which recognises no political boundaries. It is intimately linked to the whole pattern of large-scale and high-density food production and distribution (believed to have spread from a meat market in Wuhan in China) and global movement of goods and people. It is not only a health crisis but is also spawning an economic crisis through disrupting global value chains and creating a simultaneous demand shock. It is a classic cross-national and cross-domain challenge.
- The interventions to deal with the COVID-19 crisis are so far almost entirely at the national level, relying on quarantine and social distancing. There is virtually no coordination at the international level.
- For example, we are also seeing a blame game erupt between China and the United States which does not augur well for international cooperation and leadership.
So what should be the approach?
- The intersection of cross-national and cross-domain challenges demand multilateral approaches. They require empowered international institutions of governance. Underlying these must be a spirit of internationalism and solidarity, a sense of belonging to a common humanity.
- The countries need to finally realise that there is no option but to move away from nationalistic urges and embrace the logic of international cooperation through revived and strengthened multilateral institutions and processes.
- There is a role here for India which is a key G-20 country, the world’s fifth largest economy and with a long tradition of international activism and promotion of rule-based multilateralism.
The Indian government’s approach:
- Historically, India has always professed its desire to have friendly relations with all countries but has been equally firm in safeguarding its interests when these are threatened. India’s non-alignment did not prevent it from forging strong and mutually beneficial partnerships with major countries. The India-Soviet partnership from 1960-1990 is an example just as the current strategic partnership with the U.S. is. The foreign policy of his predecessors had been rooted in India’s civilisational sense, its evolving place in the international system and its own changing capabilities.
- A leadership role in mobilising global collaboration, more specifically in fighting COVID-19 would be in keeping with India’s traditional activism on the international stage. The Prime Minister has shown commendable initiative in convening leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation nations for a regional collaborative effort on COVID-19. This should be followed by an international initiative, either through the G-20 or through the U.N.
- At present, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at the recent The Economic Times Global Business Summit reflect the government’s approach. While speaking of the COVID-19 crisis, he said, “Like today, the world is facing a huge challenge in the form of Corona Virus. Financial institutions have also considered it a big challenge for the financial world. Today, we all have to face this challenge together. We have to be victorious with the power of our resolution of ‘Collaborate to Create’.
- The COVID-19 pandemic presents India with an opportunity to revive multilateralism, become a strong and credible champion of internationalism and assume a leadership role in a world that is adrift. The inspiration for this should come from reaffirming the well springs of India’s foreign policy since its Independence rather than seeking to break free.
Question – Critically analyze the facial recognition technology being adopted as one of the latest additions to the policing reforms in the country.
Context – India is closer to installing the world’s largest facial recognition system to nab criminals.
The present condition:
- The role of the police is not merely to maintain peace in public places but also of equal importance is crime detection and prevention.
- Now, it is in the area of detection that the police is most infamous for not only in India but in most countries, even in those countries where police forces which have huge manpower and can afford to buy the latest technology.
- For example, Crime using knives continues to worry London’s Metropolitan Police, while the frequency of gun violence is high in U.S. cities. All this despite robust and aggressive policing.
- Also except in sensational cases which have attracted public and media attention, the Indian police have also been guilty of underperformance.
- Here there is a paradox that has to be noted. The citizens no doubt demand newer crime control measures which will keep them safe. At the same time they resent productive and smarter police innovations in the field because of perceived danger to individual rights and privacy.
- This can be explained by the opposition to the crime facial recognition technology. This is the technology that seeks to make inroads into the underworld’s ability to be elusive and their machinations in order to escape detection by the police.
What is facial recognition technology?
- Computerized facial recognition is a relatively new technology, being introduced by law enforcement agencies around the world in order to identify persons of interest.
- Coupled with an automated biometric software application, this system is capable of identifying or verifying a person by comparing and analysing patterns, shapes and proportions of their facial features and contours.
- The INTERPOL Face Recognition System (IFRS) contains facial images received from more than 160 countries which makes it a unique global criminal database.
How does it work?
- Today, we are inundated with data of all kinds, but the plethora of photo and video data available provides the dataset required to make facial recognition technology work. Facial recognition systems analyze the visual data and millions of images and videos created by high-quality Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras installed in our cities for security, smartphones, social media, and other online activity.
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities in the software map distinguishable facial features mathematically, look for patterns in the visual data, and compare new images and videos to other data stored in facial recognition databases to determine identity.
- Today, it’s used in a variety of ways from allowing you to unlock your phone, go through security at the airport, purchase products at stores and so on.
Advantages and disadvantages:
- Just like with any other new technology, facial recognition brings positives and negatives with it.
- One of the major advantages of facial recognition technology is safety and security. Law enforcement agencies use the technology to uncover criminals or to find missing children or seniors. In New York, police were able to apprehend an accused rapist using facial recognition technology within 24 hours of an incident where he threatened a woman with rape at knifepoint.
- When people know they are being watched, they are less likely to commit crimes so the possibility of facial recognition technology being used could deter crime.
- Since there is no contact required for facial recognition like there is with fingerprinting or other security measures, facial recognition offers a quick, automatic, and seamless verification experience. There is nothing such as a key or I.D. that can be lost or stolen.
- Facial recognition can add conveniences. In addition to helping you tag photos in Facebook or your cloud storage via Apple and Google, you will start to be able to check-out at stores without pulling out money or credit cards—your face will be scanned.
- Although possible, it’s hard to fool facial recognition technology so it can also help prevent frauds.
- The biggest drawback for facial recognition technology in most people’s opinions is the threat to an individual’s privacy.
- The technology isn’t as effective at identifying people of color and women as it is white males. One reason for this is the data set the algorithms are trained on is not as robust for people of color and women. Until this is rectified, there are concerns about the ramifications for misidentifying people with the technology.
- In addition, there are issues that need to be resolved that can throw off the technology when a person changes appearance or the camera angle isn’t quite right (although they are working on being able to identify a person by only their earlobe).
- Another potential downside is the storage of sensitive personal data and the challenges that come with it.
Analysing the views of the opposers:
- Opposition to facial recognition technology has come mainly from two groups. The first are those who believe that the software discriminates against minorities and ethnic groups, especially blacks and other non-whites. This is, however, not comprehensible because the cameras are meant to take pictures at random rather than of specific segments of the population.
- Next are rights activists who focus on privacy violation. Criticism is mainly on the ground that technology, despite the tall claim of infallibility by those producing it, has many a time been found guilty of errors. Therefore, harassment of innocent citizens is not uncommon.
- The argument that policing without consent — harms individuals, either physically or in terms of reputation. The point that critics of facial recognition technology who raise privacy concerns should remember is that our faces are already online in a number of places. Increased use of CCTV cameras in a number of public places is in a sense a threat to anonymity. When this is the reality, how can we object to the police scanning us for the laudable objective of solving a case under investigation? also citizens have no qualms in handing over their data to private companies, especially while unlocking phones using one’s fingerprint.
- The benefits will be “a robust system for identifying criminals, missing children /persons, unidentified dead bodies and unknown traced children/persons all over the country; a repository of photographs of criminals in the country; enhanced ability to detect crime patterns and modus operandi across the states and communicate to the state police departments for aiding in crime prevention”. With the help of the software, the state police personnel can check the suspect with the hotlist of criminals.
- Currently, the leading face recognition software are: Amazon Rekognition; Face Recognition and Face Detection by Lambda Labs, Microsoft Face API; Google Cloud Vision and IBM Watson Visual Recognition, among others. In China, startup Megvii and AI unicorns like SenseTime, CloudWalk and Yitu have made facial recognition commonplace in China. In April last year, Delhi Police identified around 30,000 missing children in just 4 days during a trail of facial recognition system.
- However, there are concerns that the technology can be misused. According to Pavan Duggal, one of the nation’s top cyber law experts, the Information Technology Act, 2000 does not specially deal with misuse of this technology. The first casualty of the absence of regulatory framework for facial recognition technology is people’s right to privacy.
- Given the potential for abuse of the fast advancing facial recognition technology, governments across the world need to start adopting laws to regulate this technology in 2019.
- In the ultimate analysis, any modern technology is fraught with hidden dangers. There is no claim of infallibility either by the software maker or by the person selling it or who advocates its deployment. Grave errors from its use are however few and far between. Just as DNA testing establishes either the guilt or the innocence of a person arraigned for crime, facial recognition performs an equally vital role in criminal justice administration.
- Amazon has also defended the face recognition. It offers “Rekognition” – a facial recognition tool that has been used to spot criminals. According to NCRB, the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) to be implemented that would help in automatic identification and verification of persons from digital images, photos, digital sketches, video frames and video sources by comparison of selected facial features of the image from an already existing image database. “A facial recognition system is a great investigation enhancer for identification of: criminals, missing children/persons, unidentified dead bodies and unknown traced children/persons. It can provide investigating officers of the civil police with the required tools, technology, and information,” said NCRB.