Although I haven't posted here for quite a while I've been busy behind the scenes gathering some information using the Freedom of Information Act from various bodies with some interesting results on how the governments advice for schools using biometrics was constructed and we've also had some interest from the media on the subject of biometrics in schools. So although not "bloggingly vocal" - still at it!
So what has been happening?....
Seems that the media coverage over the past month or so has been constant with parents voicing their concerns across the country.
This video from the BBC site http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7502790.stm about Caldicott Comprehensive School, Newport, Wales, where parents are protesting about fingerprint systems. The school hasn't consulted with parents at all.
Chipping Campden comprehensive in Gloucestershire, where the actor Chris Jury's child attends, is rolling out biometrics for catering and registration, as the Telegraph and Cotswold Journal reports. The Coltswold Journal states that:
"He was responding to a letter she circulated to her pupils' parents announcing biometric machines would be installed at the school." and rightly so - is this the schools idea of consultation? Telling the parents is an arrogant way of assuming consent from parents (or children for that matter).
Abbey College, Ramsey in Cambridgeshire are introducing a fingerprint cashless catering. According to the Hunts Post:
"The school has assured parents that no one has access to the information and that the data can "never be viewed as anything other than a string of numbers and letters".
Obviously the company selling the biometric system to the school hasn't informed them about research done in the United States on how fingerprints can be recovered from such systems.
As the government nor academics in the UK have not had access to any systems that are sold to schools to test whether the schools statement is true, judgement can only be taken on the basis of work that has been done in the States on this.
Abbey College school also state that "no one has access to the information" - wrong. The police can have access if they believe that it will help solve a crime. This is what the Deputy Information Commissioner, David Smith, had to say on this in May 2007 with regard to school biometric systems (see Q50 and Q51):
"The police [can] make an access request. The school looks at: "Would we breach the Data Protection Act if we respond to the police?" If they can say that not giving the information would be likely to prejudice prevention or detection of crime and does not say a level of crime, or the apprehension or prosecution of an offender, then they can give that information without breaching the Act. A low level of crime would justify that"
So think again when a school states that no one can access information.
And £30,000 is being spent in Nequay's Tretherras School in Cornwall on biometric cashless catering, with a further £1500 spent each year on the license to have the technology.
Apart from the issues of consent, who can access to information and the possible re-engineering of fingerprints the additional issue of cost is huge.
When my children were nearly fingerprinted 3 years ago , at 6 & 7 years old, there were two companies selling biometric fingerprint systems - now there are nearly 20 companies in the market place here in the UK - a market that is ultimately driven by our tax payers money. We are funding this biometric market.