Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fingerprinting children for food reduces schools "annoyances"

On the fingerprinting of children for food in schools, doubts arise:

“The benefits certainly do not justify the privacy violations that we’re seeing,” said Alessandra Meetze, executive director of the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

But Beverly Blough, the director of food service in Wood County School District, West Virginia, cited that the pressures of No Child Left Behind was the reason why West Virginia schools used biometric systems -apparently it would...

...reduce the annoyances that would take the principal and staff away from education and focusing on things that were relatively minor in a student’s day.”

A mother, Joy Robinson-Van Gilder, from Illinois who has been instrumental in bringing about a change in the the law in Illinois to limit/regulate how biometric technology is used with children, said:

“It just opens a huge database out there that’s just easy for identity theft, I think it’s against their civil rights, without a doubt, and it is an invasion of privacy.”

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Biometrics - what data is logged alongside our childrens biometrics?

There is a really informative article here by Rachel Wareing about schools in Sussex, UK, implementing children's biometrics for these reasons:

Parents can see what their children are eating for lunch.

Teachers do not have to waste time taking a register. [!]

School librarians no longer have to issue books.

...others to see what reading habits our children have, by gender, age and ethnicity - sensitive information needs to be dealt with under the UK Data Protection Act.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

£25,000 biometric cashless system bought - based on "commonly perceived benefits"

At the end of January Sophie McKeand's child's school told parents they were "introducing a "cashless catering system", where children will pay for their school dinners using either a fingerprint identification system or a pin number". This is in Flintshire, Wales.

Sophie rightly objected "to have such important and sensitive biometric data being taken from children for a matter as trivial as buying lunch is absolutely absurd."

Since then Sophie has been busy finding out, via the Freedom of Information Act, just how much these systems cost (using our tax money), where the funding is coming from, who made the decision to implement such systems, etc. - interesting reading indeed.

Her Freedom of Information questions and answers, for Flintshire County Council, are on the "Biometrics in Schools" forum over on the NO2ID site.

Here are a few questions and answers:

3. What is the FULL, TOTAL AND FINAL cost of this system in Alun School?

A3.The full cost of the system in the Alun School is as follows:

PCS Systems £20,905.00
Software £ 1,062.32
Installation £ 1,162.50
Server £ 283.14
Printer etc. £ 574.00
Writing/Electrics £ 1,162.50

TOTAL £25,149.46 [this is cost for one school]

1. I wish to be provided with ALL cost / benefit analysis that have been completed concerning anything whatsoever to do with implementing these cashless systems in Flintshire schools. Not just for Mold Alun but for all schools in Flintshire as stated in the quote from the first letter from Alun School, above. This includes all equipment, maintenance and IT services.

A1. The Council holds no information regarding a cost/benefit analysis. [What?]
The commonly perceived benefits however, are that..... then follows some drivel about reducing bullying and enabling children to eat before afternoon registration, up take of free meals increased, blah, blah.

So, lets get this right...

...the council spends 25K of our money on a biometric/pin cashless catering system purely based on "commonly perceived benefits" - with no cost/benefit analysis to justify such expenditure?

IMHO this sounds like jawdropping negligence.

Flintshire County Council sound like they've been sold a line. "Commonly perceived benefits" that are backed up with absolutely no academic or government literature, but I guess probably literature from sales persons.

It would seem that the implementation of the systems (that were originally proposed to be run throughout all Flintshire Schools, which would be around £250,000 of taxpayers money) has not been a completely open and transparent process, as reported today:

"Cllr Ray Dodd said he shared some of Miss McKeand's concerns. "I am surprised that this biometric system has been introduced in a school already without any consultation with elected councillors.

The education department said there has been extensive consultation, I have not been able to establish any consultation with county councillors,"

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Iowa rejects the re-introduction of fingerprint scanners in schools

Des Moines Register, Iowa, USA, reports the bills that are up for debate, and therefore possible legislation, and those that are not to be debated and made into law.

"...state lawmakers pushed dozens of bills through committee, saving them from today's so-called "funnel" deadline. The week is a pivotal time for legislation. Bills that made the deadline will be debated. Those that failed the funnel are done."

Biometric fingerprint scanners in schools didn't make it through the 'funnel'.


FINGERPRINT SCANNERS: Some schools want to be able to use fingerprint scanners to speed children through lunch lines, the library checkout and bus boarding. State lawmakers outlawed the devices for school use in 2005 amid concerns about legal issues, privacy and information hacking. And this idea was stripped from Senate Study Bill 3010 this year.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Parents to be consulted about biometric systems in Sussex school

Warden Park School in Cuckfield, Sussex, could be using childrens fingerprints for paying for school lunches:

"The biometric technology could be introduced at the school as early as June if parents support the proposals.

Using pupils' fingerprints in schools has been criticised by many MPs, including Sussex Conservatives Nick Gibb and Tim Loughton, who fear sensitive information about children could fall into the wrong hands.

Mr Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, has said it is another step towards a surveillance society."

At least the school is going to consult with parents but according to headteacher Steve Johnson hundreds of schools in the region now used the technology.

If Warden Park School make their decision in favour of the technology a Freedom of Information Act Request could be in order to determine:

Our public money cost. Cost/benefit analysis. (One such system sold to a school in Leeds, according to the Headteacher on BBC Radio 4 "You and Yours" programme, cost £14,000 - after a Freedom of Information request this turned out to be over £27,000 - only a slight misrepresentation of 13K of our money!)

Where/which budget the money to purchase system is coming from.

The extent of parental consultation.

How this technology can "reduce bullying" i.e. related bullying figures re: catering before installation.

How many instances of "children stealing other pupils' dinner money" happened before biometric catering system installed.
A spokesperson from the company hoping to sell the system to the school stated that the "guidelines from the Department for Children, Schools and Families made it clear data could not be passed to any third party organisations" - erm... not quite true, see Q50 & 51 in parliament.