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20-Year-Old Cornell Student and Google Intern Hacks Indian Exams Database

Debarghya Das wanted a peek at his friends’ test results. He turned up major statistical anomalies in the scores.

His Quora post is titled “Hacking into the Indian Education System.”

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But in reality, 20-year-old Cornell student Debarghya Das, originally of Kolkata, hardly had to do any hacking at all to download the names, dates of birth, schools, and scores for more than 200,000 people for the high-stakes exams that most Indian students take in 10th and 12th grades. “This utter negligence of privacy with regards to grades is something I find intolerable. Marks should belong to you and only you,” he writes in the cheeky post explaining how he did it.

When he graphed the country’s test results, Das found a large number of possible scores in all subjects were entirely missing–a statistical anomaly that implied widespread tampering with the scores. For example, a minimum passing grade is 35; the number of students scoring 32, 33, or 34 was zero.

The story has been sweeping Indian media.

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.

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