Monday, November 20, 2006

Concerns over biometrics in Scottish schools

After the installation of a vein palmprint reader for the canteen at a Glasgow primary school this term, the issue of biometrics in schools has again been raised in the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Parliament Business Bulletin today lists:

*S2M-5171 Ms Rosemary Byrne: Biometric Scanning of Children

That the Parliament condemns the decision of Renfrewshire Council to install a biometric scanner system in Todholm Primary School in Paisley; believes that this is an unnecessary intrusion into the private lives of children and their families; condemns the Scottish Executive for allowing this system to be installed without a debate in the Parliament to discuss the implications of such a measure and its apparent inability to answer parliamentary questions on the matter, including questions on what company is supplying the system, the cost of the system, who is paying for the system, who stores the personal data collected, what safeguards are in place with regard to the storage of the data and whether parents had an opt-out of the system; believes that the introduction of such a system may be in breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and calls on the Executive to initiate a full debate in the Parliament as a matter of urgency on the issue. [my emphasis]

"what company is supplying the system"
The company supplying the system is Yarg Biometrics who have worked in conjunction with Fujitsu to develop this vein reading technology.

"cost of the system"
The cost of the system is unknown but I suspect it is not as cheap as a cash till or the system previously operated.

"who is paying for the system"
Amey have a Private Finance Initiative, PFI, programme in Scotland with Glasgow City Council - the largest education partnership in Europe. The Private Finance Initiative is paid for by us - the taxpayer. Amey were responsible for bringing the palm print vein scanner to the Todholm Primary in Paisley.

"who stores the personal data collected"
Unknown - probably the school but who else has access to it - ?
Presumably reports will be generated by the data stored against each child and those reports will probably be analysed by the LEA and Amey.

"parental opt out option"
Shouldn't it be an "opt in option" i.e. discussion first, purchase/commission technology later?

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