Privacy concerns greet adoption of facial recognition system by India’s secondary education board
India’s Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is introducing a facial recognition system that will henceforth allow tenth and twelfth grade students to easily download academic material, but concerns continue to linger about how secure the biometric data collected from the students will be.
With the new system, students will be able to do the downloading by verifying their identity with the help of a facial recognition tool, according to Indian news site MediaNama. The key data to be stored in the system is the student’s photograph taken by CBSE at the time of issuing a board admission card, Rama Sharma, public relations officer at the CBSE told the news outlet.
Some information also remains unclear about the new facial recognition system, such as who built it and how accurately it operates. However, the board has reportedly assured that the recently-launched system will be upgraded as time goes on. The IT Ministry’s National e-Governance Division is listed as the website’s technology partner.
Divij Joshi, an independent lawyer and tech policy fellow with Mozilla said the CBSE should not have introduced the new system without taking requisite measures in order to ensure the protection of the data collected from children. “Newer forms of digital and algorithmic technologies pose new challenges to privacy and data protection, given the ways in which data can be produced and shared. Government departments need to contend with the implications of digitisation and digital technologies for privacy, in ways which earlier paper-based record keeping and databasing practices did not,” MediaNama quoted the lawyer as saying.
The introduction of this new system by the CBSE is coming at a time when the use of facial recognition technology is said to be gaining momentum in India, with moves that seek to make the technology available everywhere in the country.
Although the southern Asian country currently does not have a policy or legislation on data privacy, the National Crime Records Bureau is working to set up a system at the national level which it also plans to test on faces wearing masks.
In a State like Telangana, the police is already making use of a facial recognition verification system which it says it uses to fish out criminal suspects. The State is also using the system for updating driving licenses and pensions, and for the facial verification of voters during polls that were held early this year.