Status of Policing in India Report 2023: Surveillance and the Question of Privacy


This report was published in March 2023 by Common Cause, New Delhi, and Lokniti, a research programme at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi. It is the fourth edition of the Status of Policing in India Report, the first of which was released in 2018. 

This report discusses the “legal and operational” aspect of surveillance in India. It explores the role of state and non-state players in tracking and infringing upon the privacy of citizens. It assesses and highlights police and public perception around surveillance technologies, internet freedom and the importance of protecting personal data.

A survey with 9,779 individuals across 12 states and union territories was conducted to understand digital surveillance in India. The study also involved a Focused Group Discussion (FGD) with experts, police officials, and also an analysis of media coverage.

This 296-page document is divided into 10 chapters: Digital Surveillance: Conceptualisation and Theoretical Debates (Chapter 1); Surveillance Trends in India: Official Data Analysis (Chapter 2); Experts’ Perspectives on Surveillance and Privacy in India (Chapter 3); Surveillance in the Media: Analysis of News Coverage on Digital Surveillance (Chapter 4); Privacy in an Age of Video Surveillance: People’s Opinions about CCTVs (Chapter 5); Spying Through Your Pockets (Chapter 6); People’s Perceptions of the use of Advanced Surveillance Technologies (Chapter 7); Digital Financial Security and Cybercrimes (Chapter 8); Privacy and Targeted Surveillance (Chapter 9); Legal Mechanisms and Crime Control (Chapter 10).


  1. Predictive policing, the report states, depends on historical crime data which in India is filled with caste, class and religious prejudices. Studies have shown that burking of the crime happens more frequently in crimes committed against vulnerable groups.

  2. CCTVs are deemed the most pervasive yet seemingly harmless form of digital mass surveillance. The report states there is no statistically significant relationship between the CCTVs installed in police stations and the rates of total cognisable crimes from 2016 to 2020. In Delhi, though, CCTVs installed in high-crime areas reduced crime rates by 44 per cent – as per a 2011 study.

  3. As per the Crime in India Report 2021, nearly 52 per cent of reported cyber-crimes were registered under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

  4. As high as 51 per cent of the people surveyed said that CCTVs were installed in their households or colonies. High-income groups were more than three times more likely to have CCTV installed in their residential areas, compared to poorer localities. On the other hand, the government was three times more likely to install CCTV cameras in poorer localities compared to higher-income localities.

  5. The report reviewed media coverage from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, of three Hindi and three English media outlets. In these, state actors – primarily the government and the police – were depicted as those playing an active role in both targeted and mass surveillance. Two out of five news stories deem the government and the police as key players conducting surveillance.

  6. Media coverage suggested that CCTV is the most favoured and frequently used form of surveillance technology by the police, particularly in matters related to public safety.

  7. The majority supports mass surveillance by the government for curbing political movements or protests. Respondents from small cities and poor backgrounds are least likely to support the use of CCTVs to curb political movements or protests. Concerns for the right to privacy are most prominently expressed when it comes to personal and financial data.

  8. About 55 per cent of the respondents support the use of drones by state agencies, such as the government, armed forces, and police. However, only 11 per cent support the usage of drones by individuals and private companies.

  9. Respondents were asked about their anxiety regarding the possibility of unknown individuals or companies accessing their WhatsApp or other social media accounts. The findings showed that around 70 per cent of respondents experienced some degree of anxiety, with close to four out of 10 expressing high levels of anxiety.

  10. During the survey, respondents were asked whether they or someone close to them had experienced any financial loss from their bank account due to online fraud. Out of the respondents, 12 per cent reported being victims of such online fraud incidents.

  11. Only 16 per cent of respondents felt that the police in their locality were adequately trained to use and store data from CCTV cameras, drones, and Facial Recognition Technology (FRT). One-third of the respondents believed that the police were somewhat trained. Three in 10 respondents felt that the police were either inadequately trained or not trained at all in managing data gathered from these advanced surveillance technologies.

    Focus and Factoids by Yaajushi Hulgundi.


Common Cause, New Delhi; Lokniti, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi


Common Cause, New Delhi; Lokniti, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi


Mar, 2023