DELHI- Three years after the Delhi government announced that they will install CCTV cameras in schools and provide live footage to parents, they are finally doing it. On 6 July 2022, the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government asked schools to provide the data of the students in next 15 days. Meanwhile, legal and tech experts believe that this move will breach the privacy of children and will affect their growth.
The aim of the project executed by the Public Works Department (PWD) is to increase the security of school students. Every activity inside the classrooms will be recorded and would be shared with parents.
The officials have told reporters that parents will be given individual secured login credentials with IDs and passwords to view the live CCTV footage. The PWD will update students' details and parents' mobile numbers, which will be collected and provided by all government schools.
BOOM spoke to policy experts and lawyers to understand the impact that such a move can have on school-going children.
Anushka Jain, Associate Policy Counsel (Surveillance & Transparency) at the Internet Freedom Foundation told BOOM that this policy violates the privacy of children."Continuous monitoring of any child should not get place. At school age, children modifies their behaviors. These are growing children and their mental abilities are growing. But knowing that their every action is being recorded by the school, the teachers, and their parents will have a negative effect on their growth. It will affect their development as well," she said.
Jain believes that continuous monitoring would also lead to unhealthy behaviors these children can adopt. "Nobody wants to be under the gaze of camera. It would be uncomfortable for them and it will affect their mental health as well," she added.
She believes that there is no need for any such surveillance in schools where already a responsible school body controls all the activities. "This is an extremely excessive measure," she said.
How Will This Exactly Work?
Parents and guardians of children studying in Delhi government schools will be able to see what their wards are doing and which subject is being taught in the classrooms whenever they wish to access the link provided by school authorities.
"In view of authorised access by parents and guardians only, the correctness of mobile number and student data is very important for secured live video feed to parents/guardians. As once the mobile number and students' details are uploaded in the DGS App, login and Password shall be generated automatically by the system and will be forwarded to registered mobile number," an official said.
The Head of institutions have been directed to decide the room number allotted to the classrooms in such a way that no change will be required throughout the year as any change in the classroom will lead to unauthorised access by parents and will need to be corrected in the data system.
The government also asked the head of schools to get the consent of parents/guardians of all students and keep a record of the consent forms.
School officials have to submit the details to the PWD which will then be uploaded to the software. The schools have also been asked to thoroughly check all details before submitting them to PWD.
Can The Data Be Misused?
Parents who will be provided links of the live CCTV footage were warned of action against misuse of the footage. A pledge that they will not share the password of the mobile app with any third party, has to be taken.
The consent form reads, "If any violation found or misuse of the CCTV video footage later on by me, suitable action may be taken against me as per Indian Law."
However, lawyer and policy researcher Anushka Jain believes that this data can be misused not just by cyber criminals but even by parents or guardians who have access to it. "We don't know who is going to commit a crime. This can be easily misused. It involves a lot of risk and privacy concerns. Providing parents access to the footage of entire classroom not only to their children is going overbroad," she told BOOM.
What About Right To Privacy?
Prasanna S, a Delhi-based senior advocate told BOOM that CCTV within classrooms infringes with students' privacy and the children's right to free and compulsory education.
"Free education implies free of cost and free of all costs – whether in cash or kind. Introduction of such a measure without a law enacted authorising it is manifestly unconstitutional," said Prasanna.
He explains that even if such a law were to be enacted, it would be unconstitutional. "It will have a chilling effect on every child's education," he said.
The senior advocate said, "Schools ought to be spaces where children learn to think and reason with freedom – not with a constant sense of being watched by teachers and parents all the time."
Prasanna cited example of 9-judge bench of K.S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India judgement where it held that any state measure restricting the right to privacy must first be backed by a law that specifically authorises that measure.