Monday, October 30, 2006

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals

After emailing CILIP, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, over concerns on how...

a) Biometric data is collected from children with/without informed parental consent and confirm security of databases holding children's information.

b) Access to reports on reading habits on our youth by ethnicity, gender and age is made open to parents. Parents should be aware of who has access to their child's reading habits.

c) Learning resources and reading materials can be restricted in school libraries by age, gender ethnicity. From a leading schools library retailer's website:

"...we are able to provide detailed statistics and monitor use of the library by gender, year group, ethnicity and individual progress in numbers of books borrowed"

d) Children are not aware that their reading habits are monitored/reported on to a third party and that other people can see what they are reading/books /learning resources are taken out.

The Data Protection Act surely has implications here.

CILIP were very responsive initially passing my concerns on to the relevant person/s - but I have waited 2 months for their view on the above points.

Our children should grow up knowing that their reading habits are monitored and analysied (!?)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

New kid on the block - infrared palm scanning

Palm Printing ...

Well, it was going to happen, see link: http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1588142006id=1588142006

"Pupils at a Scots primary school have become the first in the world to pay for their lunches by having their palms scanned rather than by handing over cash. Biometric technology which allows them to be identified through their hands' unique vein patterns has been introduced at Todholm Primary in Paisley."

Amey the company behind the palm scanner, have a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) programme in Scotland with Glasgow City Council, the largest education partnership in Europe. Amey worked in conjunction with Yarg Biometrics and Fujitsu to develop this biometric technology.

From Yarg Biometrics homepage : "Unlike fingerprint biometrics it cannot be linked to any criminal records database and civil liberties issues are therefore not affected"
And from the Fujitsu site, near the bottom of the article: "Biometric solutions will increasingly allow us to move towards a cashless society and this project is one of the first real examples in the UK of an innovative and truly practical biometric solution in operation. I fully expect this to be the first of many similar implementations across Europe" said Mike Nelson, General Manager, Fujitsu Europe Limited.

(Fujitsu is also providing a managed service in a fifteen-year contract for a Unity City Academy in East Middlesbrough. The Unity City Academy is a charitable trust. Members of the board of the Trust represent Amey plc, amongst others).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Laws in US prohibiting/restricting children's biometrics

I recently found two States in the US, Illinios and Iowa, tackling the issue of biometrics in schools.

I agree with both these bills. Having kept my eye on this issue over the past 18 months in the UK and abroad, and also having a little contact with people in the US as to how biometrics and other tracking technologies are progressing in the USA, these bills are heartening to see.

I just wonder how long it took to bring them in...who, why they were brought in. There is an increasing frequency in this technology being rolled out in the States. As it is rolled out over in the USA laws/bills are introduced to halt and question the technology used.

There is no doubt that this biometric technology will be a part of our children's lives in the future. Let us in the UK also err on the side of caution and look to other countries to see how they deal with this rapidly expanding technology and evaluate the costs and assess the impact of introducing biometrics to children as young as 3 years old in the UK.

IILINIOS
http://12.43.67.2/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=2549&GAID=8&DocTypeID=SB&LegId=23423&SessionID=50&GA=94 ...

"Synopsis As Introduced Amends the School Code. Provides that if a public school or school district collects biometric information from students, it may do so only with, at a minimum, written permission from (i) the individual who legally enrolled the student or (ii) the student, if he or she has reached the age of 18. Prohibits the school or school district from refusing any services otherwise available to the student for withholding permission. Sets forth conditions for collecting and using the information. Amends the State Mandates Act to require implementation without reimbursement by the State. Effective August 1, 2006."

IOWA
http://www.state.ia.us/educate/ootd/slu/doc/slu0507.doc
[update Feb 2007 - this above link is broken however this one details the below http://www.iowaccess.org/educate/ootd/slu/doc/slu0507.pdf ]
[update March 2007 - SF2086 - Iowa law ammended 2006 for biometrics to be accepted in schools with consent: http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?category=billinfo&service=billbook&GA=81&hbill=SF2086 ]

Page 2 of 6 details the Law quote:
1. Fingerprinting by School Districts Illegal (H.F. 685)
This bill prohibits the fingerprinting of a child under age 17 by a governmental unit (including school districts). While the bill does not define “fingerprinting,” the attorney for the Department of Public Safety advised this agency that digital finger scanning and/or mathematical algorithms of a child’s fingerprint “definitely” are considered to be fingerprinting.

There are a very few districts in Iowa that use a finger scan or finger code system for students to access school lunch, media recourses, etc. This bill appears to render use of these systems unlawful.

Consent by a parent or guardian will not help districts with such a system. The law does not allow a parent or guardian to consent to the use of a finger scan or finger code for a student for any school-related purposes. In fact, it specifically prohibits parental consent for anything except (1) to aid in specific criminal investigations, or (2) in case the child becomes a runaway or a missing child. And in the latter event, any prints taken must be given to the parents. None may be retained by the governmental unit.

Districts are advised to not use any type of finger scanning or algorithms of students until such time as the Department can work with legislators to see if the General Assembly is willing to give some relief to schools. However, any such enabling statutes are now a year away."

Friday, October 20, 2006

German research fools biometric systems

I recently found this in the LTKA website. It's research that was done in 2002 by the Fraunhofer Research Institute in collaboration with the German Federal Institute for Information Technology Security.

It is a lengthy article but worth reading. It details a variety of easy ways to fool biometric scanners and the simple ways that the systems could be hacked - see www.heise.de/ct/english/02/11/114/

A quote near the end of the article reads:

"With the aid of data packets gathered by eavesdropping and some lines of Perl script we were able to reconstruct complete fingerprints"

Clarification on whether the systems fooled are the ones used in UK schools URGENTLY needs checking. Thankfully my children's fingerprints aren't on any systems - what a relief!


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Children's biometrics on Teachers TV

MP's are speaking out against biometrics in schools.

Teachers' TV, a DfES sponsored television station (yet editorial independent of the Government), ran an article in their news this week http://www.teachers.tv/video/5093

The article, about 7 minutes into the clip runs for about 4 minutes (Teachers' TV can also be found on Sky Guide 880, Telewest 240, ntl 240, HomeChoice 845, Freeview 88 (11am-1pm)

The article airs concerns by MP's, a parent and Lawyer, Janinne Fletcher, on how and why children's biometrics are taken and stored on relatively insecure computer systems.

Considering these systems have been in schools for over three years and nearly a million children fingerprinted in the UK, it is not before time that this issue needs to be debated in Parliament.

Guidelines and regulations clearly need to be issued to educational establishments so that all parties - parents, children and schools - are aware of how and when biometric data is taken from a child (with parental consent) and aware of laws that secure and protect the next generations biometric information.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Things moving ahead

My primary aim for this blog is to highlight schools taking biometric information from pupils often without parental consent and in most cases without parents even knowing.

My two children would have had their biometric information taken off them without my consent had I not have spotted the fingerprint scanner in the library. I have to add that the school they are at were not aware of how taking this information off pupils could possibly have contravened several laws. Having said that there has yet to be a case testing the law from a parent whose child has been fingerprinted without consent - however this may soon change.

There are many issues that arise around biometrics in schools:
  • Children civil liberties - is it okay to give the message to children that biometrics is part of daily life to access books, learning resources, food and areas of establishments?
  • These systems can general reports by age, gender & ethnicity - who read these reports?
  • The security of the computers biometric details are stored on.
  • Who has access to their biometric information?
  • The thousands of pounds spent on these systems, I feel, could be better spent elsewhere in education.
A number of parents from across the country are in touch with each other and I think the general consensus is initially to obtain parental consent before biometric data is taken from a child. My aim is to change the law to regulate who and how children's biometrics are taken and used. So biometrics are mentioned specifically and there can be no doubt as to how the law is applied where children's biometrics are concerned.

The Children's Act, Human Rights Act, Education Act, the Convention on the Rights of the child and Data protection Act could all be brought into play in this matter - however I am no lawyer so as and when a parent/s challenge this it will be ground breaking stuff as these Acts will be challenged in an area yet to be explored in law.

http://www.leavethemkidsalone.com is great for more information and links and the ARCH website http://www.arch-ed.org/ is where I first learnt about biometrics in schools. The Arch website has a lot more information with regards to children's rights... a lot going on with our children really, that we parents need to be aware of!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

My first Blog!

I've arrived in Blog world and can post my thoughts and meanderings out in cyberspace for all to see. Wow... well now I'm here I seem to have got all tongue tied... (and need to collect children from school) so will sign off and go and view this, my first blog!