Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Irish schools eager to fingerprint children

According to this article 50 schools in Ireland have expressed an interest in installing biometrics in the past month. Costs are between 10-20,000 euros dependent on the size on the school.

John Beckett, managing director of Byamsys, the company selling the fingerprint systems, states:

“There’s no way to reproduce the data we store as a fingerprint. We don’t store the data as a fingerprint. When students check in their fingerprint is scanned and converted into a string of letters and numbers which is encrypted and then compared to the encrypted file that we have already for that person. There’s never a decryption process."

How can he state there is never a decryption process? Has he got the ability to scry into the future? See Kim Cameron's site "Just lie to sell your product" ...

Digital Rights Ireland have rightly expressed their concerns over the increase of the use of biometric technology in schools, their Chairman TJ McIntyre states:

“There is a standard that’s used across the industry for biometrics to ensure different systems are compatible... but what they [biometric vendors] don’t explain is that the information used there is capable of being reconstructed to give you soft fingerprint information and it’s still possible to be used in police work."

Bernie Goldbach of Digital Rights Ireland, “With a card you’re not exactly sure it’s the same person but most kids don’t give up cards that have money on them and they don’t lose them. They learn a bit of responsibility without losing a part of their identity."

Responsibility and ownership of ones identity is a crucial lesson for children to learn as they grow up in a digital age.

However the messages they receive from using biometrics without question in schools is a potentially dangerous lesson that we, in our ignorance, are teaching them.

The Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland has issued guidelines about the use of biometric fingerprinting in schools. The main stipulation was that parents and children over 18 had to give their consent to use the system and that schools also carry out a detailed 38 point Privacy Impact Assessment before installing biometric fingerprint systems to limit any legal claims for damages in the future from students.

The guidelines are not statutory and are simply advice.

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