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Andhra Pradesh medical colleges move back from Facial Recognition attendance to Biometrics

The government made this decision after the National Medical Commission (NMC) found that the previous facial recognition attendance system was being tampered with

What’s the news: Andhra Pradesh government directed principals of all medical colleges to use a biometric attendance system to mark attendance of professors, assistant professors, residential medical officers, reported Times of India on January 11. The government made this decision after the National Medical Commission (NMC) found that the previous facial recognition attendance system was being tampered with – a system that had faced heat from the state’s teacher unions in 2022.

College educators to mark attendance twice a day: As per the new biometric attendance system, all professors, associate, assistant professors and resident medical officers have to provide biometrics twice a day to register their attendance. The attendance system will be linked with the payroll system and ensure salary payments for those employees who have more than 75 percent attendance in a month.

According to the report, the new system is expected to “bring more discipline in the faculty of teaching hospitals” and “prevent government doctors from illegally attending work from their private clinics and corporate hospitals.” Under the facial recognition attendance system, the NMC found some doctors would leave the college premises after marking their attendance through their mobile to attend to their private practice. This urged the authorities to switch back to the old system.

Were educators ever keen on facial recognition? Other states like Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya have also opened up to the idea of a facial-recognition based attendance system in recent years. Yet interestingly the teachers and professors for whom this system is being considered do not seem keen on the idea.

Readers may remember that in 2022 many teacher unions in the state opposed the idea of facial recognition-based attendance. Listing out teachers’ grievances, Times of India had reported how a minute’s delay in registering on the facial recognition-based system caused the concerned teacher half a day’s salary. Organisations like the Federation of AP Teachers Organisations, AP Teachers Federation, State Teachers Union and others also raised privacy concerns regarding the installation of the app on their private devices.

Around the same time, a staff member at Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj University challenged a university order that required biometrics of teaching through facial recognition. Approaching the Allahabad High Court, Dr. Suvijna Awasthi had raised concerns of workplace surveillance. At the time, Professor Anupam Guha from the Ashank Desai Centre for Policy Studies, IIT Bombay, said that a case can be made of how monitoring by facial recognition is fundamentally violative of the right to life with dignity. This can also affect employee productivity since constant surveillance hinders their agency in a workplace.

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I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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