The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has proposed a facial recognition system for verifying candidates who appear for online exams conducted by AIIMS, Medianama reported.
AIIMS conducts various exams across the year. According to a tender by the Ministry, hundreds of candidates will be under surveillance and AIIMS will store their biometric data for six months. The tender, however, does not provide any information on who AIIMS will share this data with or how it will use it.
The Devil lies in the detail
Many educational departments, airports, and government departments are using FRT to maintain social distancing. However, experts are worried after pandemic subsides, how long this data will be stored and who all can access that. It is a genuine question because as of now no law regulates facial recognition. JPC on Data Protection Bill again got an extension till the winter session of the parliament.
Multiple western nations have ruled use of facial recognition tech as illegal. On 5th Feb, Canada banned Clearview AI’s facial recognition service for collecting highly sensitive biometric data without consent. In mid-February, Sweden’s data watchdog imposed a fine on local police for unlawful use of Clearview AI. UK has also declared facial recognition implementations as illegal. The European Data Protection Board has recently called for a ban on use of facial recognition in public spaces.
The broader idea behind this tender is to install a recording and surveillance system “to monitor various activities of the candidates and other persons at examination centres spread all over India” and to provide“. Advance Biometric Capture & Verification services for touchless iris capturing, facial recognition by verifying candidate’s identity on a real-time basis, digital fingerprint capturing at different stages of examination.
Mock exams before the real test
According to the tender, the vendor will conduct mock drills conducted to ensure the uninterrupted functioning of CCTV surveillance and FRT before the day of examination.
Further, the tender mentioned, “The final mock drill to be conducted a day before actual examination on all centres at the same time just like simulating for the examination day. All computers including buffer computers to be used on examination day shall be logged in through dummy roll numbers and report shall be submitted to the examination section.
Before the examination, the vendor has to set up a command centre at AIIMS New Delhi. Herein 200 desktops are present. The selected vendor will have to integrate the FRT and other biometric systems with the available desktops.
However, the tender mentioned, “location of control room may change in exceptional cases and service provider has to provide services as per the scope of work at changes location of the control room.”
How will the system work?
AIIMS will provide centre-wise data of all registered candidates to a selected vendor and use this data for facial recognition and other biometric verification. The data includes roll numbers, photos, exam date/shift, names, etc.
About equipment, person who the institute selects to verify candidates at each examination center shall receive a bar code scanner and integrated and hand-held touchless iris/ fingerprint/ facial recognition scanner. They will scan the admit card of candidates with a QR code scanner, before scanning a candidate’s iris/fingerprint by a hand-held device.
The tender mentioned that there should be one hand-held biometric scanner for every 100 candidates.