Friday, March 02, 2007

ACLU's intervention over biometric fingerprint scanners in schools

The Tauton Gazette, Massachusetts, reports that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have had complaints from concerned parents after a schools district were planning to use fingerprint scanners for lunch lines without any opt out alternative available. Parents learnt of the biometric systems introduction through local newspapers.

Sarah Wunsch, Staff Attorney for the ACLU Boston chapter has now requested documents pertaining to the planned introduction of biometric technology in schools:

* All records relating to the Taunton School District's decision to implement the "Lunch Bytes" program or system, including but not limited to copies of agreements with Lunch Bytes Systems and costs;

* All documents relating to security for scanned fingerprint information and retention of data relating to the scanning under the Lunch Bytes System, including policies and procedures relating to sharing of data with law enforcement agencies or other entities;

* All documents relating to the Taunton School District's evaluation of the Lunch Bytes System and other methods of addressing problems of delays in the school cafeteria and the needs of students receiving free or reduced lunches;

* All notices and information provided to parents and/or staff of the Taunton School District about the Lunch Bytes System.

Superintendent Arthur W. Stellar has 10 days to reply.

It should make interesting reading, especially the third request. How these systems are cost evaluated for the gains they claim, hasn't yet been explained here in the UK.

Initially, here in the UK, we seem to be using fingerprint scanners for library book issue in schools (because security in libraries is a "big issue"...) - but increasingly biometric technology is being sold to schools for lunch line/cashless catering 'solutions'.

Maybe now we can look to the States for this elusive answer to see whether the £millions already sunk in to children's biometric fingerprint systems, here in UK schools over the past 6 years, has been wisely spent.

"...participation in this system is not optional and will be mandatory for all students at the six schools in the next few weeks, apparently whether they eat school lunches or not."

"Other school systems, after inquiry, have decided not to utilize similar systems and we urge Taunton to reconsider its plans." Wunsch referenced the Boulder Valley Public Schools in Boulder, Colorado as one district that decided against the technology. Irvine, California's another.

A poll of parent teacher organization officers from the six district schools in question revealed a wide range of concerns.

"By requiring students to provide their fingerprints for scanning, from which a unique identifier will be created and stored, the Taunton school system is effectively teaching students and their parents to be quite casual about their biometric data, at a time when computer security breaches are commonplace and identity theft has become a major problem in our society," Sarah Wunsch, staff attorney for the ACLU Boston chapter, wrote to Superintendent Arthur W. Stellar.

"This is the wrong lesson for Taunton to be teaching."


Anonymous said...

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nickyjett said...

"I believe to keep up with speed of service and tracking students"