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India seeks biometric verification system provider for 4k examination centers nationwide

India seeks biometric verification system provider for 4k examination centers nationwide

India’s National Testing Agency (NTA) – the government body in charge of organizing entrance examinations for university admissions — is in search of bidders for the provision of a facial recognition and biometric verification system in roughly 4,000 examination centers across the country.

According to Medianama (subscription required and recommended), the call to tender was launched just days after the NTA said it was seeking providers of the same service to monitor candidates for the online version of the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) and the Joint Entrance Examinations (JEE).

The tender, Medianama reveals, requires a total of 100,000 CCTV surveillance cameras of 2 megapixels each to be installed across all the centers in a bid to check malpractices and ensure the legitimacy of the examinations. It also requires the bidder to provide a handheld facial recognition and other biometric scanners for every 100 candidates. The biometric verification will combine face with iris or fingerprint scans.

The project will see over 3.5 million exam candidates under the surveillance system all over the country, since the NTA organizes a number of entrance tests including the Delhi University Entrance Test, IGNOU PhD and OpenMAT (MBA) Entrance Test, Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test, and the Hotel Management Joint Entrance Examination Test.

The NTA has specified two types of hand-held devices for real-time biometric verification which it expects from bidders; touchless iris and facial image capturing systems and digital fingerprint and facial capturing systems.

The tender notice also specifies the use of data such as roll numbers, photos, name, and exam data provided by the NTA for facial recognition and other biometric scans, a student card with a barcode to be scanned at entry for live verification, stateless transactions for facial recognition images, biometric deduplication of entries, and database and application server implementation at two different seismic zones within the country.

Other technical requirements of the tender ask for guarantees of data security with the possibility of cloud-based storage, an integrated command control, a compulsory live demo of the system before each examination, and the recording and safekeeping of all the examination sessions, Medianama writes.

Project raises major data privacy concerns

As the NTA looks forward to implementing this project, there have been various concerns raised regarding the data privacy of candidates to be monitored, more so because the process will include minors. The NTA has also said the biometric identity verification process for all candidates will be mandatory.

The NTA, in the tender, says the solution provider will be in charge of the data security, but different experts are urging the agency to factor in different aspects so as to keep candidates’ data safe and secure.

Apart from implementing relevant provisions of the proposed Personal Data Protection Bill, which is stalled at the level of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, particularly those having to do with the management of sensitive personal data, experts have called for more transparency in the collection, sharing and processing of data, additional responsibility in dealing with data in the case of minors, as well as the proper handling of issues around third-party data processing.

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