Friday, November 10, 2006

Hong Kong stops fingerprinting in schools

An approach which is wise and prudent. See The Register, Mark Ballard's article from yesterday:

The Hong Kong privacy commissioner has ordered a school to stop fingerprinting children before it becomes a runaway trend that is too late to stop.

The school, in the Kowloon District, installed the system last year but, under the order of the Hong Kong Privacy Commission, has ripped it out and destroyed all the fingerprint data it had taken from children.

Roderick Woo, Justice of the Peace at the Hong Kong Office of the Privacy Commissioner, told El Reg [The Register] he had decided to examine the issue immediately after the first school installed a fingerprint reader to take registers in his jurisdiction.

And, he decided: "It was a contravention of our law, which is very similar to your law, which is that the function of the school is not to collect data in this manner, that it was excessive and that there was a less privacy-intrusive method to use."

This is prudent move by Hong Kong and the UK government should stop and take note.

At least let us put a stop to the purchase of educational biometric systems now and have an urgent and open debate on whether this type of technology under our UK law is an excessive method of storing our children's data. Canteen payment, registration, library books in/out - all of these are not learning resources, all of these can operate are they did before with no detriment to pupils education.

Whether "ripping" biometric systems out of schools, after the millions of pounds this government has spent on them via eLearning Credits, would seem doubtful now. How many millions of eLearning credits and schools budgets have been spent on these systems is a figure known only to the government. It must be a great deal as the educational biometrics market is definately growing.

If the 'difficult' processes of library cards, paying for food and registration were not running smoothly enough then why didn't government spend a bit on money on improving them by extra staff? This surely would have been a cheaper, more user friendly option option... no, actually I suspect these systems were running okay in the grand scheme of things and certainly not badly enough to warrant spending millions of pounds on them... but what a great way to collate data, generate reports and desensitise our children to the new technology.

I'll let Roderick Woo have the last say...

"'s not a good way to teach our children how to give privacy rights the consideration they deserve,"

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