Face biometrics deployments in Indian schools scrutinized by privacy advocates

But a personal data protection law is being drafted by lawmakers
Categories Biometrics News  |  Facial Recognition  |  Schools

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Privacy advocates have criticized the deployment of facial recognition camera systems in at least 12 Indian schools, Reuters reports.

The schools under scrutiny are government-funded, and according to digital rights advocates, their use of biometrics is violating children’s privacy rights.

The deployment of the face biometrics systems are the result of a 2019 decision by the Delhi city government to install CCTV cameras in more than 700 public schools, reportedly to improve students’ safety.

However, the biometric technology has been installed without laws clearly regulating its scope, particularly in regard to user data collection.

“CCTV is already a violation of children’s privacy, even though some parents had supported it for the safety of their children,” Anushka Jain, an associate counsel at Internet Freedom Foundation told Reuters.

“But the use of facial recognition technology is an overreach and is completely unjustified,” he added.

According to the privacy expert, the move is even less justified, as face biometric accuracy rates for children are traditionally substantially lower than for adults. In 2019, around the time an Australian agency began researching how to improve face biometrics accuracy for children, NIST’s Patrick Grother said with advances in convolutional neural networks, face biometric technology may soon become effective for matching children over time.

“So in the event of a crime, you could have children being misidentified,” she said.

The worries were echoed by Prasanth Sugathan, legal director at Software Freedom Law Centre, who said facial recognition systems are often deployed without consent, and also present other issues.

“[They] could cause real harm to the children if the data is leaked, not to mention the impact of always-on surveillance of the children,” he explained.

Despite these arguments, however, Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi said in the past that the use of CCTV had resulted in the reduction of truancy in schools.

The Indian government is currently working on the drafting of a personal data protection law to address these kinds of issues.

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