Sunday, November 12, 2006

Rolling it out in the States

There are more than 48 million school children in America, the implications for families, schools and business are huge over there - but where is the debate on this? Different states have different laws on biometrics in schools, some parents are asked for permission some are not asked for permission...

As schools are rolling this out in America, concerns are being voiced by parents, privacy groups and senators.

Rome NewsTribune, USA - “It may be perfectly secure, but my daughter is a minor and I understand that supposedly the kids have the option to not have their prints scanned but that’s not being articulated to my daughter,” said Hal Storey “If parents don’t know about it, they don’t know about the ‘opt out’ option.”

Storey’s issue is he was never notified or given information on the system before his 10th grade daughter’s finger was scanned.

ABC , USA - The Hope Elementary School District has
notified parents that, beginning this month, students at Monte Vista, Vieja Valley and Hope elementary schools will press an index finger to a scanner before buying cafeteria food.

"It raises sanitary issues, privacy issues, it is kind of Orwellian,"
said Tina Dabby, a parent of two at Monte Vista Elementary. "It just sounds kind of creepy."

CBN , USA- Chris and Joy Van Guilder recently moved to
Earlville, Illinois with their four children. Chris is opposed to biometrics.

Chris said, "Just red flags all over. I could just feel it
inside me--something is not right...We know this technology can be abused and used for controlling reasons."

Illinois State Senator Miguel Del Valle took action after learning of the Van Guilder's situation. His biometric bill requires parental permission, opt-out policies, and the protection of childrens' data. Del Valle said, "Lists are sold of personal information and so we want to make sure that that doesn't happen with children."

In the UK too:

icLiverpool, UK - Councillor Paul Clein, executive member for education, said:

"I do have misgivings about it and it is something that parents should have to actively agree to... any attempt by schools to force children to take part is wrong, and I would be very concerned if it became part of entry criteria, for example...I suppose it is a reflection of the times we live in, but I do not know where we draw the line."

MorecombeToday, UK - County Councillor Chris Coates, who represents Lancaster Central, said it was "too much of a Big Brother sledgehammer...what I'm really concerned about is that there has been no debate on this issue," he said"It seems to have been introduced without any consultation and real thought over the implications debate...The first I heard about it was when I was approached by a parent over the summer and I'm sure there are many people that don't know their children are being fingerprinted...It is such a big issue that we need a full debate to see if it's a road that we really want to go down."

Oxford Mail, UK - City Councillor Claire Kent found out about the system from her children, who attend the school.

She said: "They were told the data is not being shared with anyone else - but I don't believe that...It is something I would have liked to have been consulted on. What are they doing with the information? I'm very anxious that it doesn't get abused."

The Register, UK - A spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers said: "Fingerprinting has to be done in consultation with parents and teachers and not imposed. By consultation, we are talking about proper consultation, giving parents time to respond, not installing the machines and then asking parents,"

Plus, there are concerns and issues raised by privacy groups here and in the States.

Biometrics in schools possibly makes queuing, paying for food/school trips a quicker process, registration less time consuming for the teacher, library book issue more streamlined but apart from the civil liberties concerns and worries over what will happen to the data stored now in the decades to come - it also removes the personal human element from school, a 'hello' from the school librarian or dinner lady and that important initial contact in school registration between teacher pupil.

Why are we road testing this technology on our children? Biometrics in schools doesn’t benefit children - biometrics benefits the data collectors not the data subjects/givers.

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