Published: 07th February 2023
Why are IIT Bombay students upset with security measures on campus? Is it violating their privacy?
Starting with making biometric attendance mandatory a few months earlier, IIT Bombay has now started installing CCTVs in hostel corridors
Several students at IIT Bombay are displeased with the new security measures taken by the institute. Starting with making biometric attendance mandatory a few months earlier, IIT Bombay has now started installing CCTV cameras in hostel corridors. Students claim it is a violation of their right to privacy and want the surveillance removed.
The Spokesperson of Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), a student organisation at IIT Bombay, on the condition of anonymity, explained that their biometrics were first linked to their I-cards. The I-card was scanned during entry and exit from the institute. Next, it was linked to attendance for some of the departments. And then the students were required to scan their I-card at the mess.
"So the data of when a student is eating is now saved electronically and is stored at the central server. This effectively means the institute is now tracking every movement of the student. Institute knows when a student ate breakfast, attended class or whether they went outside," reads a statement from APPSC. Students claim that all these measures were introduced without their consent and also without consultation.
"The institute mentioned that the inclusion of biometric attendance in the mess was to prevent the non-hostelites from entering the facility. However, we already have a mess card for that. We are also not against showing our I-cards. But why collect biometric data and track movements?" the Spokesperson questioned. "The eating habits are very personal and private information. There are students who do not wish to share this information with anyone," the statement adds.
The students are uncomfortable because they claim there is no accountability for the biometric data thus stored. "There is no security protocol. We don't know who has access to this data, where it is stored and what will happen to it after we leave the institute," the student said, concerned. He also pointed out that IIT Bombay itself had issued a poster informing biometric data was unreliable.
According to the poster, shared with EdexLive, IIT Bombay mentions, "Biometric systems (such as the ones used for attendance) have really low accuracy on their own," and then goes on to justify why I-card is being asked for scanning instead. "But in this process, they are collecting biometric information only! There is no clarity in the measures implemented," the Spokesperson says.
The IITians are also worried about the installation of CCTV cameras in the corridors of a few boys' hostels. "Currently, they are installed in Hostels 10, 12, 13 and 14," the APPSC member said. He added that after one of the students wrote to the Director against this measure, the institute responded stating it was to prevent incidents of theft, and added that they had received several complaints recently.
"We are unaware of any such complaints. But even if there are, installing an expensive camera for a ten-rupee bucket is not the solution. There are also security personnel available 24/7 to check these incidents," he added."And if they are installed in girls' hostels as well, the consequences can be dangerous," the student stated further.
The Spokesperson also informed that when the students protested against a fee and hostel rent hike in October 2022, the institute cited a lack of funds. "But with the installation of these measures, the institute was incurring a huge cost pertaining to the maintenance and storage of the biometric records," he said.
"There are many other issues in the hostels which need funds to fix them, like broken washing machines and lack of drinking water facilities," the student mentioned. He added that now the inmates of the concerned hostels were organising a signature campaign to find out how many of them are uncomfortable with the security measures. "We may take action in future based on the results," the Spokesperson stated.