No one knows how many schools are now using biometric technology like this because it seems that the government is not keeping a record. Some estimates suggest that as many as 30% of all schools in the UK have fingerprinting technology. This means that millions of children are having their fingerprints taken and retained. This massive expansion of the collection of highly personal data has been allowed to take place without parliamentary scrutiny or public debate. […]
The main reasons given by schools for introducing biometric technologies are to assist in registration, library and canteen systems. Upon entry, the pupil is required to place his or her finger on a scanner whereupon the software will identify them as someone entitled to access the service. It is argued that access to the service is made faster and more efficient, but also that the system can keep tabs on the pupil (so that it is easier, for example, to spot if a student is skipping school). Using a cashless system like this is also credited with reducing bullying and stigmatisation, especially for those on free school meals. It has been suggested that parents can keep better track of what their kids are eating, with some sort of block being put on the canteen system if the child tries to buy unsuitable food.
Although fingerprinting technology is still the main biometric systems employed by schools, other trials to date have included retinal scanning and palm-vein scanning.
So what is wrong with this? Certainly when I asked my 14-year-old and some of his friends about it, they didn’t immediately see anything wrong with fingerprints and scanners in schools – in fact, they quite liked the futuristic style of the technology as opposed to their battered old library cards, or boring registration procedures. Liberty does not share their enthusiasm. Indeed one of our principal concerns is that it plays on these ideas and gets children accustomed to giving up their highly personal biometric data as a matter of routine.
If children at primary school age are taught that it is normal to hand fingerprints or other personal data to their school or local authority, how alarmed are they going to be if and when, as adults, a future government tries to reintroduce the idea of ID cards, for example, or to argue that there should be universal DNA retention?
Should Schools Spy On Students’ Online Speech?
Educators now have more opportunities to monitor students around the clock as students complain, taunt and sometimes cry out for help on social media. Services to filter and glean what students do on social networks are being offered by several companies, including automated tools to comb through off-campus postings for signs of danger. Whether school officials should or legally can punish children for their online, off-campus speech is an undefined area of the law.
image via flickr:CC | bhrome