Privacy concerns: Karnataka government cancels pact with private firm

Bengaluru: Following data security concerns raised by stakeholders of primary and secondary education, the state government on Friday terminated the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it had earlier signed with a private firm.

The Department of Primary and Secondary Education had signed an MoU with Schooglink Private Ltd, an online platform which enables connection between parents, teachers, schools, educational services and products, in a bid to digitise and improve the school system in the state.

The document which came into effect earlier this month (on Feb. 3), and school managements, education experts and other stakeholders found some clauses a threat to data privacy.

The department had agreed to share personal contact details of students, parents and teachers from government, aided and private schools functioning in the state and this raised many eyebrows.

Karnataka Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools (KAMS) soon approached the Education Minister and even wrote to the CM after raising their concerns on the issue to the department officials.

“Private schools have already been experiencing the misuse of parents’ data for marketing, with even the credentials of Student Achievement Tracking System (SATS) being misused by BEO offices at various instances to generate transfer certificates for parents who have disagreed to pay fee in some private schools,” remarked D. Shashikumar, general secretary of KAMS.

“In this particular case, the association had mentioned in its letter to the top government officials that we would take legal action if the MoU was not withdrawn. This was a serious of breach of trust and privacy parents, teachers, students and managements had with the government,” he added.

The Department of Primary and Secondary Education issued a corrigendum on Thursday mentioning that only the data available on public domain would be shared with the private firm. But criticism continued to pour in and on Friday the government terminated the MoU.

Reacting to the termination Principal Secretary of the department Shalini Rajneesh said that it was unfortunate that a “non-issue” was blown out of context and proportion, leading to such a situation.

Clarifying the concerns raised on SATS credentials, P.C. Jaffer, Commissioner for public instruction said the information stored in the state data centre server was secure. “There are audit trails as to who is accessing which data and only government agencies are given access. These personal data cannot be shared with a third party without consent of the data giver,” he said.

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