Monday, June 18, 2007

Schools have the right to collect biometric data in the UK with out parents permission

Independent Sunday 17th June

"Ministers will issue guidance telling schools they have the right to collect biometric data and install fingerprint scanners."

"It is understood that schools will not have to gain written permission from each parent before their child's fingerprints are taken."

"Schools will be able to place fingerprint scanners at the entrances to classrooms, the school gates and even in cafeterias."

Quite unbelievable. Doesn't the government take world leading experts seriously on this matter? Obviously not. This 'guidance' should make interesting reading when/if it is ever issued.

See the England Expects blog for more comment on this.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Biometric guidance for schools due before end June

This from correspondence received today from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO):

"I believe the DfES are expecting the Becta guidance to be published before the end of June.

The ICO will be issuing its own statement on the issue at the same time. This will express fairly briefly our view on the use of fingerprint templates in schools."

Father bans schools from fingerpring his child

The Oxford Mail reported last week that Ben Emlyn-Jones, who's 12 year old daughter was to be fingerprinted St Gregory the Great School in Cowley for a library fingerprint system, has refused permission for the school to take her biometric data.

He refused to allow his daughter's fingerprints to be taken and was also concerned that the school had not contacted parents.

He added: "It is as if they know it is wrong and have done it secretly, hoping no-one finds out."

On this occasion this parent was lucky to find out that the schools were planning to do this. Many parents do not find out until after their children's biometric fingerprint have already been stored on their school's PC.

If you have any doubts about fingerprinting children in schools the Leave Them Kids Alone website has a page devoted to questions to ask your school about this.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Local Council issues guidelines to schools

Portsmouth City Council are the first council in the UK to issue guidelines to their schools regarding using biometric fingerprint technology with pupils.

Titled "Finger scanning technology in schools", the full guidance can be found here.

The concerns expressed have in the main focused on 2 main issues:

• That parental consent might not be obtained in a consistent way.
• That the supporting data might in some way enter the criminal justice system to the disadvantage of the children involved.

The guidance has seven points for schools act on, highlighting a school's legal obligations surrounding this technology.

Well done to Portsmouth Council and in particular Councillor Luke Stubbs who was instrumental in this guidance being written.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Guidelines arriving "shortly"

Jim Knight responded yesterday, in the Dept of Education's usual true concise manner in this matter, to a very simple question put to him by Sarah Teather, Lib Dem MP Shadow Education Secretary, regarding the use of fingerprint technology in schools:

From Handsard June 4th 2007

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when he expects to publish guidance to schools on the use of biometric technologies.

Jim Knight: The Department aims to publish guidance to schools on the use of biometric technologies shortly.

This to me doesn't look like a factual answer - not the type of answer that would get brownie points in a SATs test.

Anyway, to try to understand a School Minister's speak let us refer to Rogets Thesaurus, no doubt used in Jim Knights Deptartment's schools nationwide. So, Rogets Thesaurus's definition for "shortly" is "right away".

All this said, when the guidelines are issued they are not statutory and unfortunately schools do not need to heed or read them.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Guidelines for schools elusive

This from The Sun : "Last night [June 3rd 2007] Schools Minister Jim Knight agreed to draw up strict guidelines"

He also agreed to this in February this year, from Hansard 5 Feb 2007:

Jim Knight: "The Department is working with the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency which is revising its current guidance on data protection to include specific guidance on biometric technology. Becta aims to make the guidance available on its website by the end of March 2007 after consultation with the Office of the Information Commissioner."

So the Department of Education has been working on guidelines since February, delayed publication to March, then May and still Jim Knight is working on guidelines......mmm, there are a number of possibilities here:

1. Either the guidelines are going to be issued in the form of a trilogy, due to length of time taken to write, and will appear not just on BECTA's website but also on Amazon.

2. There are no guidelines being written.

3. There were guidelines but Jim Knight's dog chewed them up, honest.

4. It's a legal nightmare and the Department of Education, the ICO and BECTA are simply not issuing them yet due to legal complications.

LEA's have no idea of the level of biometrics in schools

The Liberal Democrats have highlighted fingerprinting children in schools without parental consent.

Only a quarter of LEAs had details about the use of fingerprinting in schools; the Government has refused to issue guidance on the issue and has no idea how many children are being fingerprinted.

Education authorities did not have information regarding whether parental consent had been obtained in four-fifths of the schools that collect fingerprinting.

The Lib Dems highlighted 285 schools that are definitely fingerprinting children.

This Leave Them Kids Alone page lists the schools that are. If you're a parent go and check it out, you might find that your children are using their biometrics and have been doing for years without your knowledge.