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New Indian school ID adds another credential on top of Aadhaar

Categories Biometrics News  |  Civil / National ID  |  ID for All  |  Schools
New Indian school ID adds another credential on top of Aadhaar

India’s One Nation, One ID program appears to have been misnamed, with the controversial announcement of a plan to assign a unique digital ID number to every school student in the country for the purpose of tracking academic records, on top of the Aadhaar national ID. A Times of India report says that the Automated Permanent Academic Account Registry (APAAR) will be a lifelong ID number that tracks students’ achievements and academic careers, and makes school transfers easier.

T. G. Sitharaman, a spokesperson from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), says that “APAAR and National Credit Framework will be the QR code for learners across India. Every skill they pick up will be credited here.”

A graphic published by the Times of India specifies that students will be able to track grades, extracurricular achievements in sports, and other school-related records. It also says that “students can use the credit score for their higher education or employment purpose in future,” and that, although Aadhaar numbers will be masked when sharing information, “​​personal information, such as name, address, age, date of birth, gender and photograph, will be available to entities engaged in various educational activities, scholarships and educational institutions.”

Concerned parties worry that the statement implies an unacceptably lax approach to data. In a post on its website, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) says it has written a letter to India’s Ministry of Education to point out several potential problems with APAAR.

“Under the initiative, the Ministry has started widespread collection of student data and envisions processing, storing, and sharing of such data, without having released any law or policy documents backing the APAAR framework,” says the post authored by Disha Verma and Prateek Waghre. The IFF objects to what it sees as excessive data collection, a weak consent framework and unsecured data sharing. It also lists several significant legal concerns with linking students’ APAAR IDs to their Aadhaars. In its letter to the government, it formally requests that the Ministry of Education “withdraw the linking of students’ Aadhaar numbers to APAAR IDs.”

For their part, exhausted teachers are worried that One ID is turning into more IDs and increasing their workload. The APAAR number is in addition to a student’s Aadhaar national ID number, and in order to attain one, parents of a student must give their consent for the Ministry of Education to generate the APAAR ID based on the student’s Aadhaar number. In The Indian Express, a representative from a school principals’ association in Mumbai says that making updates to Aadhar and student vitals on the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) already takes valuable time away from academics.

“Now, a new ID card is in the making,” laments Pandurang Kengar.

India has been defending the security of its digital ID system in the wake of repeated breaches and a report by the credit rating firm, Moody’s, criticizing vulnerabilities in the national biometric ID program.

Schools were asked to meet with parents for informational meetings on APAAR between October 16 and 18.

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