Sunday, August 12, 2012

Parental consent now a legal requirement in UK

In May 2012 the Protection of Freedoms Act was given Royal Assent and passed into law in the UK.  Chapter 2 of the Act, clauses 26-28, deals with consent when processing a child's biometric data:

Chapter 2 Protection of biometric information of children in schools etc.
26. Requirement to notify and obtain consent before processing biometric information
27 Exceptions and further provision about consent and notification
28. Interpretation

The salient points of the Act are: 

  • Each parent of the child should be notified by the relevant authority that they are planning to process their child's biometrics and notified that they are able to object.  
  • In order for a school to process children's biometrics at least one parent must consent and no parent has withdrawn consent. This needs to be in writing.
  • The child can object to the processing of their biometrics regardless of parents consent.
  • The child is under 18 years old.
The requirement for parental consent as defined in this Act becomes enforceable In September 2013.

The UK is the first country in the world to address the issues of informing parents and requiring their consent when their children’s biometrics are being taken, stored and processed by a school or any such institution.

Further scrutiny will be needed to see how enforceable this law is and how 'informed' parental consent is. 
Informed consent is a complex issue.  If the biometric vendor, as the sole supplier of information via the school to the parent, is the sole source of information that the school gives to the parent, fully informed consent could be questionable.

It is interesting to note that not one academic, educationalist, industry developer have given their support for children using biometrics, in fact many 
experts have have voiced their concerns.  Only biometric vendors and schools seems to think biometrics use without parental consent with children is acceptable.  I know whose advice I'd take.

It's a good job that if parents Google "Biometrics in Schools" then this blog appears on Google's first results page.  Parents should also check out the
Leave them Kids Alone website.