Monday, February 19, 2007

It's not a fingerprint but a number...

Too often the argument in defence of fingerprinting children in school is that "the system doesn't store a fingerprint, but a number". So that's okay then...

This is quoted 'ad lib' to the press by schools and bio-companies targeting schools.

What is stored is the digital equivalent of a fingerprint, uniquely identifiable to a particular person/child - otherwise if the biometric technology used in schools couldn't identify a particular child (via their fingerprints) the systems wouldn't work and issue library books, logged meals eaten, track a child's whereabouts, etc, against a child's name.

The police now use very similar systems, in the fact that they too use digital technology to store and compare fingerprints, to the systems used in schools.

The argument "that it's not a fingerprint that is stored" is irrelevant as it is fingerprint data that stored on a school database which is relatively insecure in comparison to the importance placed on storing biometrics on databases that large IT companies have.

As Andy Clymer states in a paper he has written: "No system can guaranteed the security of information against future technology. Attempting to protect life time relevant information is extremely tricky and potentially costly."

On that note, the computers of the future are just about here. Welcome to quantum computing which "...has IT security firms and spooks afraid their current encryption technologies will be rendered obselete when a quantum computer with hundreds of qubits arrives.."

Estimated time of arrival - 2008

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Privacy advocates" like yourself always fail to understand a crucial part of your regular talking points. It isn't biometrics that causes the privacy issues, it is the data associated with the biometrics. In order to have the conveniences that modern society takes for granted, information must be stored in somewhere. This is a fact of life now. Biometrics is simply a method of insuring that whomever is requesting that information is who they say they are. Your "concerns" should be over the data being stored, not a method of identification.

Pippa said...

I agree that it is not just the fact that biometrics are used in schools, other posts here on this blog have dealt with the concerns over the types of data held, what reports are generated from it and who reads it.

Hopefully there will be no compromising of any child's biometric data for the remaining decades of their life, because biometrics will be a part of their life - but using biometrics in these trivial circumstances, in schools, may lead children not to question, as adults, where and for what purposes their data is being used.

There has been a little research on children's attitudes and the small amount that has been done does suggest that children don't question 'why?' (especially when it's done in a compliant school setting).

Pippa said...

I agree that it is not just the fact that biometrics are used in schools, other posts here on this blog have dealt with the concerns over the types of data held, what reports are generated from it and who reads it.

Hopefully there will be no compromising of any child's biometric data for the remaining decades of their life, because biometrics will be a part of their life - but using biometrics in these trivial circumstances, in schools, may lead children not to question, as adults, where and for what purposes their data is being used.

There has been a little research on children's attitudes and the small amount that has been done does suggest that children don't question 'why?' (especially when it's done in a compliant school setting).

Anonymous said...

But compromising an individuals fingerprint data doesn't seem like a concern to me. Not with all the other information out there. You leave your fingerprints everywhere. Anyone with some baby powder and a piece of tape can lift your prints if they wanted to. But then what?? Here in the United States the only standard in fingerprint systems is the AFIS database which is utilized by law enforcement. All other biometric systems are closed, proprietary systems unique to the individual vendors. Biometric system A doesn't communicate with biometric system B. Each uses its own sensors, algorithms, etc... So basically, even if biometric data was stolen, it can only be used in a system from the same vendor.

I completely understand and respect that you're looking out for your child. There are a lot of parents don't. I just think that biometrics, when used properly, is more likely to be beneficial to you and your child than harmful.